When Palm Pre's pricing and availability was officially announced earlier this week, one thing looked particularly unusual for a high-end mobile phone launch these days: an annoying mail-in rebate. But savvy shoppers can avoid the rebate roulette and can get better prices by shopping around.
If you want to buy the Palm Pre for the advertised $199 price (after a two-year Sprint contract) you will actually have to shell out $299 at the register and then redeem a $100 mail-in rebate. It will take you generally between four to eight weeks to get your $100 rebate on your Palm Pre. That's unless you don't want to go through the tedious process of claiming your rebate, which is something many retailers using this marketing technique count on.
Fortunately, you can save yourself the pain of buying your Pre from a Sprint store. If you go to a BestBuy or Radio Shack store, this mail-in rebate will be deducted instantly at the register, it has been confirmed.
BestBuy is preparing a big push for the Palm Pre by training some of its employees for a Walk Out Working program, which aims to get Pre customers using their new phone before they leave the store.
But this rebate affair is not the only pricing annoyance that may plague the Palm Pre when it ships June 6. A $199 8GB Palm Pre would go head to head with a new 16GB iPhone for the same price (as per yesterday's iPhone 3.0 rumors). That might have some potential Palm Pre customers hesitant to pull the trigger on buying the Pre.
As for call and data plans, my colleague Ian Paul compared the hefty contracts to come with new iPhones and the Palm Pre yesterday.
Google's upgrade of Chrome to 2.0 is exceedingly underwhelming --- there's so little new that if you blinked you'd miss the changes. It's baffling that a company that keeps fully featured software like Gmail in beta for years has jumped to 2.0 for a browser with so little to offer.
After the upgrade, you won't notice a change in Chrome at all --- it looks just like the previous version, and largely behaves like it as well. There are a few little tweaks, though, such as a full screen mode available via the F11 key.
There's also a form filler for filling in Web forms, something other browsers have had since the Dark Ages. You can also remove thumbnails from the "New Tab" pages that launch whenever you open a new tab. And you can zoom better.
The only substantial change is speed. Google claims that the new Chrome is 30% faster than the previous version, and I can believe it. It loads pages lightning fast.
But there's more to browsing the Web than fast-loading pages. That's where Chrome 2.0 is still far inferior to Firefox and Internet Explorer.
It's hard to understand Google's plans for Chrome, because it's so bare-bones that it will never gain significant market share. It may be, though, that Google considers its browser little more than a front end for Web-based applications such as Gmail or Google Docs, and figures that the applications themselves, not the browser, is where most functionality will reside. But the ubiquitous cloud-based world is still far away, and until then, Chrome will languish.
Microsoft have made the Release Candidate of Windows 7 available for download. This is hopefully the final public release in which any remaining bugs can be fixed, but it should be very close to the version we will see in the shops towards the end of the year.
You can download both the 32 and 64 bit versions on this page:
You can try it out using VirtualBox if you don't want to perform a full install or dual boot.
I was lucky enough to have a friend at Dell who let me play with Dell's new Latitude 2100-N for a few hours. After he chased me down, he pried it out of my fingers. I didn't want to give it up. This is one nice Ubuntu Linux-powered netbook.
The Dell unit I looked at came with an Intel Atom N270 CPU running at 1.6GHz. This one had 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, an 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, and integrated Mobile Intel 950 GMA graphics chip set. It also had a 6-cell battery. Like most new netbooks, it comes with a good-sized display: 10.1". As equipped, this unit would sell for $444.
The base Ubuntu Linux 8.10 equipped unit comes with 512MBs of RAM, a 16GB SSD (solid state drive) and a 3-cell battery. This version of the netbook sells for $369. If you wanted to get the same netbook with XP Home SP3, it would cost you $399. It's always nice to see a vendor offer you the Linux cost savings.
It's also worth noting that while Dell also offers Vista Home Basic on this netbook, they also point out that "if you choose Microsoft Vista and also would like Microsoft Office productivity software, you will need to select a hard drive option with at least 80GB of space." I'd add that you'd also need to upgrade the RAM to at least a gigabyte if you expect to run Vista without screaming in frustration.
One of the features I like about this netbook is that, unlike most of its breed, Dell makes it easy to upgrade the Latitude 2100-N's RAM. While Ubuntu runs great in 512MBs of RAM, and XP does decently in it, the netbook comes with a SO-DIMM (small outline dual in-line memory module) slot that, combined with the memory on the motherboard, will let you give the PC up to 2GBs of RAM. Nice.
Ubuntu 8.10 ran like a charm on this system. It came with Dell 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and I was immediately able to find and use the local Wi-Fi. I used the net for almost the entire time I had my mitts on the netbook, and I was really pleased to find that with the pumped-up battery I wasn't even close to out of power after four-hours of zooming around the Web.
What I really liked best about this unit though wasn't really computer related at all. It comes with a hardy plastic body, which they tell me is made of PC ABS (polycarbonate/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), which gives it a very solid feel. It also has a rubberized lid and base. The over-all effect is that you feel like this is one laptop that could take a licking and keep on ticking.
Best of all, with this rugged exterior, the Latitude comes with the option of a shoulder strap that connects directly with the netbook. At just over 3-pounds and with great battery life, this is a netbook that you can just slip on your shoulder and run from class to class, or, in my case, from home to library to coffee shop without a thought.
I like this strap idea a lot. Seriously. A netbook gets lost in most laptop bags, and you sure can't put any of them in your pocket. Now, if you're a woman with a good-sized purse, you're set. But, for most of guys, this shoulder strap makes a great way to cart a computer with you without pulling out a laptop bag.
I expect to see many other netbook vendors picking this feature up. It really makes a lot of sense. Portable, powerful, and Linux: the Dell Latitude 2100-N makes a great netbook for students and workers on the go.