Palm Inc will likely announce plans for Verizon Wireless to sell one of its phones at the Consumer Electronics show in January, according to analysts who also expect a new phone launch at the show.

Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, said earlier this year that it expected to be able to sell Palm's Pre in early 2010. Analysts say the partnership will most likely be announced at the annual showcase for cutting-edge technology and devices. “We anticipate that (Palm) will officially confirm its relationship with Verizon at this year's event,” CL King analyst Lawrence Harris said in a research note on Thursday. Harris and others also see AT&T Inc as a potential partner for Palm, which currently sells its Pre and Pixi phones exclusively through Sprint Nextel. The big question is whether Palm, whose Pre was seen by many as the highlight of 2009's event, will come out with a show-stealing, groundbreaking device again or just an upgrade to the Pre. “What's not clear here is if it's a minor variation of Pre or Pixi for Verizon or AT&T, or a major new model,” said MKM analyst Tero Kuittinen, who expects Palm to unveil some kind of new phone at CES. “It's highly likely they're going to announce Verizon and it's fairly likely they're going to announce AT&T.” CCS Insight analyst John Jackson said that the company may come out with a device that has more media capabilities than Pre or Pixi, and potentially in a different form factor. “They've left themselves room to come out with a higher-end multimedia device,” he said. While many other vendors have followed the Apple Inc iPhone's lead with a full touch-screen controlled phone, Palm has favored a mixture of touch-screen control combined with a physical, computer-like QWERTY keyboard. Jackson said that a full touchscreen Palm phone is a possibility but noted it was not clear that the company was ready to forsake its physical keyboard. “(A full touchscreen) would be a bold step for Palm but certainly nothing that consumers aren't now familiar with,” he said. Palm has not said what it plans to announce at the show.

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