Palm Pre is finally available although only on one carrier in one country so it will not make that much of a difference. Still, it is great to see another brand new mobile operating system (Palm webOS) out there - this is putting additional pressure on Nokia and Microsoft to replace their aging operating systems Symbian and Windows Mobile.
All the smartphones out there uses the same components and offer pretty much the same features - the difference is the operating system as well as the related Software Development Kits (SDK) used to make applications for these operating systems. The iPhone 3G uses the same graphics processor as the old Nokia E90 but you would not guess that if you where looking at them side by side running games - the iPhone shines compared to the E90.
We now have three modern operating systems for smartphones: iPhone OS, Android and webOS. These have all appeared during the last two years. They are all Unix based (Android and webOS are Linux based and iPhone OS is based on FreeBSD).
The proprietary BlackBerry OS has been around since about 1999 and isn't really that modern anymore but the real dinosaurs are Windows Mobile that was initially released in 1996 (as Windows CE) and Symbian that has been around on mobile devices since the late 1980s.
Although I have absolutely no inside information, I am certain that Nokia has teams trying to make an entirely new and modern operating system from scratch to replace Symbian. Obviously it isn't easy but they have to - you can not keep updating an operating system with an outdated architecture. Eventually you have to build a new from scratch. Nokia does have a Linux based operating system, Maemo, that they use in their internet tablets and I am sure they are evaluating how well Maemo could replace Symbian in their high end phones.
Apple had to give up on MacOS when they, after several failed atempts, could no longer modernize it. Apple dropped it entirely and replaced it with the unrelated OSX (originally called Next Step). Palm were pioneers in the handheld buisness but their PalmOS operating system originally designed for Motorola 68000 processors running at a few megahertz simply wasn't up to todays challenges. Now Palm has created an entirely new operating system from scratch, the webOS, and it is looking good.
The Palm Pre costs 1680 USD and is considered to be cheap by the US press since the irrelevant sticker price is only 200 dollars. Few mention the 70 dollar per month (the cheapest contract) you must pay for two years as part of the lock-in contract since this is considered normal in the US. The iPhone costs 2360 USD with the cheapest possible contract.
The photo is from a Palm developer conference in 2001 where they talked about the bright future of the OS, their far reaching roadmap and so on. That entire operating system has now been dropped and replaced by webOS - a bold and necessary move by Palm.