LAS VEGAS -- I've only been able to play with one for a few minutes, but after seeing Palm's ( PALM) impressive presentation of its Pre smart phone at the Consumer Electronics Show's opening day I feel fairly certain the phone could just be the device that gives Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone a run for the money.

Palm Pre: iPhone Killer?

It's not just one or two "killer" features, or the phone's overall size, or even the way the handset gently curves so that it fits snugly against your ear while placing the microphone right near your lips. It's the entire package. From the hardware to the software and everything in between it's almost as if the people at Palm studied every smart phone on the market and improved upon every single one of them.

Palm Pre

The new operating system, called the Palm webOS, seems to be able to integrate everything you use in a smart phone seamlessly. From email (Microsoft Outlook, POP3, IMAP, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL) to instant messaging, to Wi-Fi, GPS and EV-DO 3G connectivity, to eight gigabytes of built-in storage, to the replaceable battery, to calendars and contacts, to the way your fingers slide from one application to another, and slide them off the screen when you're done with them, the Pre brings a new sense of oneness to Palm's small, portable, personal cell phone/computer.

Don't get me wrong, the Pre isn't perfect. There's no removable memory card support, and the first phones will be sold by Sprint, ( S) which means they won't be usable overseas but, when taken as a whole, these shortcomings seem somewhat trivial.

You had to see the demonstration to really understand what I'm trying to relay. In the best Apple style, a mesmerized audience watched and applauded as each new integrated feature was discussed and displayed. Take messaging, for instance. On the Pre there's little difference between corporate email, personal email, SMS or instant messaging. They can all be displayed on one screen and when you answer the Pre will send your reply via the proper methodology. It's that kind of advanced thinking that makes Pre very special. And I'm just scratching the surface. It took Palm more than an hour to present a very basic overview of what the new smart phone can do.

Unfortunately, the world will have to wait for the Pre. It needs to get approval from the Federal Communications Commission before it can be sold here. Palm will only say that it will be available in the first half of 2009. I can tell you the company is hoping it won't take that long. Palm could use some sustained good news.

Sprint will be the first to market the Pre and it hasn't set a price yet. I'll be very surprised if Sprint chooses to price it much more than a comparative iPhone.

( Photo gallery: 2009 Consumer Electronics Show)

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.

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