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10/2/2009
00:27 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Palm Won't Survive

I am not even going to speculate and ask "Can Palm survive?" or "Will the Pre save Palm?" I am just going to come out and say it - WebOS is too little, too late. The Pre sales numbers are disappointing. Palm's application store almost non-existent. This and other mistakes by Palm in the last few months will doom the company. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year, but once they run out of cash, that's it unless someone gobbles them up.

I am not even going to speculate and ask "Can Palm survive?" or "Will the Pre save Palm?" I am just going to come out and say it - WebOS is too little, too late. The Pre sales numbers are disappointing. Palm's application store almost non-existent. This and other mistakes by Palm in the last few months will doom the company. Maybe not this year. Maybe not next year, but once they run out of cash, that's it unless someone gobbles them up.Palm has been on a steady decline since their heyday in 2001-2002. PalmOS 5 had been very successful along with device launches like the Tungsten line and partners like Sony lining up to make devices. PalmOS 6 never saw the light of day though, and they fumbled around selling off the OS division (PalmSource) and focused on devices. That didn't pan out either and they tried to recreate that Palm magic by coming up with their own OS. It took longer than anyone thought though. Right at seven years after PalmOS 5 launched, WebOS made its debut in the Pre on the Sprint network.

It seems that WebOS was rushed to market. The SDK was late in arriving to developers, which is at least party to explain for the paucity of programs in Palm's application store. The music sync solution was to just pretend to be an iPod so you could plug it directly into iTunes. This led to a ridiculous cat and mouse game where Apple would block it, then Palm would release an update reenabling it and so on. The bottom line is, Palm didn't write their own sync conduit for music and leeched off of Apple's efforts. As of now, users can't sync their Pre with iTunes, something they were told they could do when they bought it.

Palm sold 823,000 smartphones in their third quarter ended August 28. They didn't break out the Pre figures, but it is reasonable to assume it was a large portion of those numbers, however the Treo and Centro are also included. What is surprising is that even with their big launch of the new platform, they sold more phones in the same quarter last year when they only had PalmOS 5 and Windows Mobile phones.

Their app store is sadly lacking in quantity of applications nearly four months after it was launched. They certainly don't need an absurd quantity of apps like Apple has, but they need more than double-digits. Part of the reason for lack of apps is their apparent lack of clear guidelines and procedures for submitting an app.

Now they are preparing to follow up the Pre with the Pixie. On the same network. Sprint. If anyone wanted a WebOS phone and they were on Sprint, they'd have one by now. If they wanted WebOS but weren't on Sprint and the Pre didn't lure them to that network, the Pixie sure isn't going to do it.

Obviously some disagree with me. Investors pumped nearly $360 million dollars into Palm earlier this week. They are betting Palm's worst days are behind them. I just don't see it.

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