Apple Could Attempt to Outshine Palm at WWDC

While the Palm Pre has dominated the news cycle in advance of its release, Apple could have a few ways to steal back the spotlight during the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, including the rollout of new iPhones or even an appearance at WWDC by Steve Jobs, who has been on a leave of absence from the company due to medical issues.

While the Palm Pre has attracted substantial buzz in advance of its June 6 launch, with many online pundits debating whether it deserves the title of "potential iPhone killer," Apple could have a few spotlight-stealing tricks up its sleeve at its Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to run from June 8 to 12.

Chief among these, from a device perspective, are rumors that Apple will use the event to announce a cheaper iPhone, priced somewhere in the range of $99 to $149. The Financial Times quoted Morgan Stanley analyst Kathryn Huberty as saying Apple would announce a $50 to $100 price reduction for the device.

By contrast, the Palm Pre will be priced at $200 after mail-in rebate.

More rumors have circulated that Apple could roll out a more muscular iPhone, equipped with more memory and the ability to capture video. Other possible hardware upgrades bandied about online include a magnetometer integrated into the device, which would form the basis of a digital compass.

Apple may also be jockeying to eliminate any of the Palm Pre's technological advantages with the iPhone 3.0 operating system. The iPhone 3.0 OS will include 100 new features, and 50,000 individuals who paid to be part of Apple's developer program were given access to both the beta version and the updated SDK (software development kit) in March 2009.

However, chances are high that the Pre will continue to dominate headlines after the weekend launch. The Palm Pre received a number of good advance reviews, with tech writers from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times giving many aspects of the smartphone high marks in various categories.

Writing for the Times, David Pogue suggested that the Pre's mix of touch-screen, Bluetooth, 3G and Wi-Fi, and its OS combine into a package that "nailed it."

The Palm Pre's App Catalogue has only a handful of applications, however, compared with the 25,000 that currently exist in Apple's App Store, suggesting that the Pre may find itself at a disadvantage in certain areas. Critics have also cited the Pre's relatively quick-dying battery and poor Sprint reception.

No matter how well the Pre sells in its first days on the market-and analysts generally expect it to sell very well-Apple may have an ultimate attention-getter waiting in the proverbial wings: Reports have suggested that Steve Jobs, who stepped down from his position as chief executive in January to deal with health issues attributed to a hormone imbalance, will indeed return to his job as scheduled in June.

Were he to attend the WWDC, of course, the news would dominate, and ensure Apple a short-term swell of media attention.

The WWDC, which Apple calls its "premier technical event," draws over 1,000 engineers to San Francisco to hear what Apple engineers and executives have to say about the company's newest releases.