[UPDATE: As noted in the comments, Best Buy is saying this is an error. I still think we'll see a $99 Pre before too long, though...]
PreCentral.net is reporting that Best Buy is living up to its name by offering Palm’s Pre smartphone for $99.99 with a two-year contract–no rebate paperwork required. That’s $100 less than the previous price, which you’ll still pay if you buy a Pre from Sprint (and which you’ll only get after you apply for and receive a $100 rebate). We don’t know whether Best Buy’s new price is permanent, or whether Sprint will match it soon, but it seems like a good bet that it’s the price that the Pre will ultimately end up at.
Only Palm and Sprint really know how well the Pre is selling, and whether it’s living up to their initial expectations. But I don’t think the 50% discount a few weeks after the Pre’s release is a sign of panic on anybody’s part. When Apple cut the price for the iPhone 3G to $99 two days after the Pre debuted in stores, it pretty much set $99 as the new starting price for a smartphone with specs comparable to those offered by the Pre, and there was nothing Palm could do about it. At $199, the Pre looked a tad pricey compared to an iPhone 3GS with twice the storage and video recording, even though it had more RAM and a keyboard. At $99.99, however, it costs…exactly what you’d expect.
You gotta think that part of Palm’s response to the iPhone 3GS will be a Pre that matches some of its features–especially the starting storage capacity of 16GB–and which can be sold for a similar price. Best Buy’s price cut might even be a sign that the new model will arrive soon. One way or another, I hope that the Pre sells well enough to be considered a major success: It’s an excellent and innovative phone, and even iPhone owners will benefit if Apple has plenty of healthy competition.