Ever since Palm introduced the Pre at CES a few weeks ago, rumors have been swirling over the possibility of Palm butting heads with Apple in a courtroom over the Pre's functionality.
Critics say the Pre's use of swiping the screen to move between windows, and multitouch gestures to zoom, make it a logical legal target for Apple, which has engaged in some posturing over the past few weeks.
In Apple's quarterly earnings call last week, COO Tim Cook said that his company "will not stand for having our IP ripped off," but he wouldn't "talk about any specific company."
It's no secret which company Cook is talking about and in an interview with All Things Digital, a Palm rep said that if the company is "faced with legal action," it's confident that it has "the tools necessary" to defend itself against any Apple lawsuits.
Whether or not Palm has a case is in doubt. Apple was recently awarded a patent that covers many of the iPhone's multitouch functionality, including the zoom functions and swiping currently found in Palm's Pre.
Will Apple use this new patent to its advantage? The company has yet to make a statement. But if takes Palm to court over the Pre, I'll be rooting for Palm.
Why support Palm? It's simple: I believe in competition and I think Apple has cornered the touch-screen mobile phone market with superior software and an outstanding App Store. And although that may suit iPhone owners just fine, I think a viable Palm Pre would be good for all of us.
Now, I know that there are other touchscreen devices on store shelves. But let's face it: none of them are really that compelling.
Based on my testing, the BlackBerry Storm is a mess. Its "click" touchscreen is annoying and impractical and when I tried to type anything on the device, it was much harder than it should have been. Suffice it to say that the BlackBerry Storm can't compete on any level with the iPhone.
The T-Mobile G1 Android phone isn't much better. It offers some nice Google apps (it's a Google platform, after all) and some of its touch-screen functionality works well. Worse, the Android Market isn't nearly as appealing as the iPhone App Store and the device's design leaves much to be desired, in my opinion.
What's left? Devices from phone-heavy vendors like Samsung and LG? They were never really considered iPhone competitors and none bring much new to the fight. Because of that, we're left with the iPhone.
But when I saw the Palm Pre announced at CES, I was thrilled. Sure, some of its functionality looked similar to the iPhone, but it also provided enhancements to the iPhone's design and made me believe that for once, we have a possible "iPhone killer" coming our way.
It's not that I dislike the iPhone--it's the phone I use every day and I'm extremely happy with it. But I still believe that if the Palm Pre hits store shelves in its current state, we'll finally have a real competition in the market and both Apple and Palm will be forced to improve their devices to stay one step ahead of the other. And in the process, the consumers win.
Competition breeds innovation. Litigation does too, but not usually the right kind. If Palm can hold its own in a battle against Apple and bring the Pre to store shelves, I think we'll see dramatically improved products from both companies. That's my ultimate hope when the dust settles.
Did Palm's Pre, legally speaking, copy the iPhone? That's not for me to say. But as long as it didn't, I want to see the Pre succeed.