Verizon Wireless has reaffirmed that it will be offering the Palm Pre early next year, which would end Sprint's exclusivity for the new smartphone.

On Monday, according to news reports, Verizon Chief Operating Officer Dennis Strigl confirmed in a conference call with analysts that the company will release the Pre sometime in the first part of 2010. There were no details about price or a specific launch date.

BlackBerry Storm Refresh, Android Device

Verizon hopes the new phone can help overcome its just-reported second quarter, in which its profit dropped 21 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Among other steps, the company is cutting more than 8,000 personnel by the end of the year. While profits were down, the company's total wireless revenues increased about 27 percent.

In addition to the Pre, Strigl also indicated Verizon will be offering a new version of the BlackBerry Storm and a device running on Google's open-source Android operating system.

Verizon's announcement is seen as significant by some industry observers because two of the most publicized exclusivity deals in the industry -- Apple's iPhone deal with AT&T and Palm's with Sprint for the Pre -- are ending.

When Verizon said in late spring that it would offer the Pre, Sprint executives bristled because the company had inked an exclusive arrangement with Palm for an undisclosed length of time. In June, Sprint said the exclusivity was more than six months but, if Verizon offers the Pre by early 2010, the deal may not have been for much more than that. Sprint and Verizon use the same wireless standard.

Apple's exclusive arrangement with AT&T is expected to expire next year, and there has been speculation that Verizon may be competing to pick up the popular iPhone.

'No One Has Talked Numbers'

Avi Greengart, an analyst for industry research firm Current Analysis, said he wasn't surprised that Verizon will be picking up the much-publicized Pre, since Sprint's exclusivity was "temporary." He expects other carriers to pick up either the Pre or another upcoming webOS-based device from Palm.

Greengart noted that it's "hard to say how well the Pre is doing, since no one has talked numbers." He said he was expecting Sprint to soon release figures in its quarterly report, but "if it has been selling spectacularly well, we would have seen a press release."

However, Greengart noted that there appears to have been consumer demand sufficient to cause supply constraints such that some initial, would-be customers found the Pre was hard to get. But, he added, that supply problem now seems to have been resolved.

The Pre uses Palm's new Linux-based webOS platform, and is spearheading the company's attempt to get back into the fast-moving game of mobile Relevant Products/Services devices -- a competition in which it was once a leader. With a touch-sensitive screen and a new interface, Palm is hoping the Pre will capture some of the market that is otherwise going to the iPhone or other touchscreen devices.