Beginning on June 6, educators and students will have another smart-phone option for staying connected to each other and to campus networks when the Palm Pre debuts — and its parent companies, Palm Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp., have a lot riding on its success, reports the Associated Press. The Pre, which costs $200 with a two-year service plan and rebate, might be most important to Palm, the very company that helped usher in the handheld computing era with the original Palm Pilot in 1996. These days, Palm needs a resurgence in a market largely dominated by Apple’s iPhone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices. For Sprint, which has been bleeding subscribers to other wireless carriers, the Pre represents a chance to snare new customers while getting current ones to trade up from a regular cell phone. The Pre has a touch screen like the iPhone, but it also has a slide-out keyboard and runs on Palm’s new webOS software, which can run several applications at once, unlike an iPhone. The original Palm Pilot was all about organizing the user’s personal information, and the Pre will take that idea further by synchronizing contacts from Facebook, Gmail, and Outlook into a single list–something else the iPhone can’t do. In addition, the Pre will connect with Apple’s iTunes software and download music and photos as an iPhone or iPod can, which might be a first for a device not made by Apple…

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