The new Palm Pre, which runs on the new Web OS operating system, will not work with older applications supported on the Palm Treo and other smart phones, a Palm official confirmed.

"We're not emulating [applications from] the old Palm OS, but will allow third-party emulation," said Pam Deziel, vice president of product management, in an interview Friday at the International CES trade show. "We're figuring on having developers do great applications."

The fact that existing applications, even games, found on older Palm products will not work with the Palm Pre without third-party involvement shows how important the new Web OS for Palm is going to be. Palm has said the Web OS is expected to guide its application and device development for the next decade.

While Palm observers and analysts had been eager for a new operating system from Palm for years, some were concerned that not supporting existing applications might be going too far.
"I wasn't expecting this much," said Kris Keilhack, an associate editor for Palm Infocenter and a Treo and Palm device user for 13 years. "This is really the paradigm shift you hear about."

Deziel also said Palm will be setting up an online store similar to Apple's App Store for users to find applications for the Pre. The company also plans to make generally available a software developer's kit for building applications at some point "close" to the time of the public shipment of the phone, which will be before July.

The Palm Pre is slated to be available from Sprint in the first half of this year.

Deziel also offered more details about the phone's functions. The Web OS itself is based on Linux, with the software on top built in-house by Palm engineers, she said. Developers familiar with CSS, Java and HTML will be able to easily build applications for it, she said. The first version of the phone has applications developed by about two-dozen third-party developers, Deziel said.

In a 20-minute demonstration, Deziel showed some of the hand gestures that manipulate the touch screen. She explained that common tasks, such as calling up an email or a text field to contact a close worker or friend, will be accomplished with one touch, not several as required with some devices.

The touch screen on the Pre doesn't come with a virtual keyboard as the iPhone and other smart phones do, so users must rely instead on Pre's slide-out QWERTY keyboard. However, Deziel said a third-party developer could build a virtual keyboard application for users who wanted it.

The Pre also uses a novel charging device that applies inductive technology via a round device shaped like a hockey puck, called the Palm Touchstone. Users place the phone on the Touchstone to charge it. The Touchstone, which will be sold separately, will require users to replace the back on the phone with a different back that includes magnets and circuits that allow the charge to occur, Deziel said. The inductive back has a different texture from the original, but weighs about the same.

Pricing has not been announced for the phone or the Touchstone. The Pre will be sold exclusively by Sprint Nextel in the US for a time period that is not being disclosed, Deziel said.