Pre to Win iPhone Users after Contracts, McNamee Says

Palm Inc.’s new Pre smart phone will lure customers away from Apple Inc.’s iPhone when subscribers’ contracts start expiring in June, Palm investor Roger McNamee said.

Sprint Nextel Corp., the phone’s exclusive carrier, and Palm have said they will start selling the device in the first half of the year. Palm, which pioneered mobile devices with its Pilot products more than a decade ago, is counting on the Pre to help reverse six straight quarters of losses totaling more than $650 million.

The Pre features a full touch-screen cover that slides up to reveal a Qwerty keyboard, designed to appeal to both iPhone fans and traditional smart-phone users. Speculation about the price and the release date has circulated on the Web since Sunnyvale, California-based Palm unveiled the Pre in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“Think about it -- If you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market,” said McNamee, 52. “Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.”