Sprint CEO Says: “Expect Palm Pre Shortages”

The CEO of the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier says he expects early demand for the Palm Pre smartphone to outstrip supply. Customers looking to buy a Palm Pre on June 6 may have to line up to get their hands on one because Sprint Nextel CEO expects the smartphone to be in short supply at launch.

The Pre is a sophisticated smartphone that’s seen as a legitimate alternative to high-end devices like the iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Storm, and T-Mobile G1. The smartphone will be priced at $199 after a rebate and new two-year contract, which puts it in the same price range as its rivals. Sprint has said that the Pre will be the carrier’s flagship handset and will eventually get a strong marketing push, but that it will likely wait until Sprint gets more Pre smartphones in stock.

“We don’t intend to advertise it heavily early on because we think we are going to have shortages for a while,” CEO Dan Hesse said in an interview. “We won’t be able to keep up with demand for the device in the early period of time.”

One of the most appealing features of the Pre is the new webOS operating system that was built with Internet connectivity in mind. The OS can combine a user’s contacts from various Web services such as Facebook and e-mail accounts into a single, finger-friendly user interface. The Pre also will be able to run multiple applications at once through its “cards” paradigm, which is something the iPhone 3G lacks. Since the Pre was introduced at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, it has been receiving positive buzz among the tech press. But it’s unclear if the casual market is as excited about it as the early adopters. A recent survey by ChangeWave Research indicates potential smartphone buyers are more eager to buy an iPhone 3G or a BlackBerry from Research In Motion

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