At a show where reporters have cellphones and other devices thrust into their hands around every corner, Palm took a novel approach: treat its hot, unreleased handset like Forbidden Fruit.

Palm showed off its upcoming Pre smartphone at the CTIA annual wireless showcase in Las Vegas. The company was still very, very coy about its launch date for the device except to say that it will appear on Sprint’s shelves before July 1.

It was also very careful about letting reporters play with the device to the extent that the product demonstrator, Tina, would not let it fully out of her hands. Reporters were allowed to play with the keyboard — as long as the demonstrator was able to keep her hands on the phone. One reporter asked if she could feel the weight of the phone in her hand, but TIna again kept her hands on part of the phone.

(Perturbing? Some said no. Some say so…)

Touching and holding issues aside, the demonstration showed many of the features that have fueled buzz about the Pre. Tina made a phone call from the device and showed Pandora, the streaming music discovery service, and Sprint applications such as mobile TV (which looked great) and its Nascar application.

The device, which also allows easy movement between different applications, is seen by some as Palm’s big chance to claw back market share from rivals such as Apple iPhone. At the same time it represent to some the basket referred to in the cliche: “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”