Palm has been apparently been busy warning UK retailers that it is less than happy with pre-order pages for SIM-free versions of the Palm Pre, informing them that the webOS smartphone will only be available in locked form (presumably to O2, the company's UK carrier partner). Our sibling site MyPre.com has been informed by one affected retailer that Palm's legal team "requested" in no uncertain terms that they take down their listing, where the Pre had been tentatively offered for £450-500 ($737-819).
Unless this turns out to be saber-rattling on Palm's part - not entirely impossible, given some of the preorder pages we've seen have suggested unofficial release dates, something O2 themselves have been refusing to confirm - it could come as a surprise to European buyers. Unlocked handsets are far more common in the UK and in mainland Europe, with even those devices bought subsidized on a contract often provided without a carrier lock in place.
Of course, the practice is not entirely foreign; after all, the iPhone was originally only sold in locked form (again, to O2 in the UK). However that handset has since been put up for sale SIM-free, though Apple and O2 would prefer not to make that as clear as their own contract versions. We're waiting to hear back from Palm UK with a comment.
Update: Palm have told us "no comment" on the speculation that they're preventing unlocked Pre sales.