Tries the Palm Pre

By Steve Smith
09/15/2009 joins only a handful of major media content providers to create dedicated applications for the Palm Pre mobile handset platform. The application, which launched last week, pulls a selection of the main’s site’s article content onto the mobile device as well as a customizable MyStocks portfolio and stock index trackers. Unlike many publishers, who were quick to publish mobile apps first on the Apple iPhone. Forbes brought its general news app first to the Blackberry and now to the Pre. The brand does have one dedicated iPhone app, the Intelligent Investor, which is a highly selective slice of the site’s investment features and video interviews from Steve Forbes. A spokesperson tells minonline that the brand’s core readers are heavy Blackberry users, and the business user currently is underserved by its content offerings. According to the company 10,000 Pre users have downloaded the app since its launch last Thursday.

Palm, the maker of the hardware, and Sprint, its only U.S. carrier, will not discuss yet the number of Palm Pres sold since its summer debut. Analysts have estimated that the platform has sold little more than 400,000 units which is way off the pace of 1 to 1.5 million the year the partners had anticipated to sell this year.

Nevertheless, the Pre represents a growing and very able mobile platform. The app has a nondescript and text-heavy interface and clearly puts a premium on clean simplicity and efficient navigability. The brand name sits in a narrow banner atop the screen and a drop down menu gives the user direct lateral access to nearly a dozen content verticals. In each article a large “Share” button pulls up a menu of links to email, Facebook, Yahoo Buzz, Delicious, Digg and Reddit social media sites. LinkedIn is conspicuously absent, which seems odd for a an audience of executives most likely to use the business-oriented social network. The app curates each section down to about five key headlines. The MyStocks page is customizable with the indices and specific stocks you want to follow.

One of the neatest features in the app is a “Prepare for Offline” tool that downloads top articles and your latest stock and market data to the phone so you can review them on an airplane flight or anywhere else without connectivity.

The app has its rough spots. Too often it kicks open new browser windows that bring you to Forbes and other pages that are not optimized for mobile. The app can be sluggish even when using a Wi-Fi connection. And unlike direct competitors on other platforms like FT and Bloomberg there is a dearth of images and charts to help visualize the content. video is not here either.

Nit picking aside, the Forbes app is workmanlike and enjoys the benefit of streamlining. For those who want just the facts and across a wide array of the brand’s topics, it fills the bill. While there is not a lot of opportunity for Forbes to communicate its brand equity and identity here (well, there is a lot of signature blue), it is serviceable.