Hello, O2: Pre's GSM flavor finally gets a launch carrier in the UK?

Since its sneaky, silent unveiling at February's Mobile World Congress, the GSM version of the Pre has been a total no-show -- good for Sprint publicity-wise, probably, but bad for virtually every other carrier and potential customer in the world. If we had to guess, the silence can be attributed to heated negotiations between Palm and dozens of potential networks; the company knows it has a probable winner on its hands, and it has every reason to play hardball to get the best exclusivity deal that it possibly can. The Guardian is now reporting that O2 has fended off competing offers from Vodafone and Orange to nab the Pre in the UK, meaning that the carrier -- Britain's largest by subscriber count -- would be launching the device alongside the iPhone 3G, though rumors only have it pegged for pre-Christmas availability meaning it'd actually be doing with whatever new device Apple intends to bring to the table this summer. Whether it can hold its own against a renewed Cupertino onslaught in the holiday season remains to be seen, but in the spirit of competition and awesome smartphones, we certainly hope so.