Mobile
Commentary
9/28/2007
05:36 PM
Richard Martin
Richard Martin
Commentary
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Timely, Slick Centro Gives Palm A Shot In The Arm

My colleague Eric Zeman already has written about the new Palm Centro, unveiled yesterday at the Digital Life show in NYC. I just want to add: this is a great idea on Palm's part, the smartest move the company has made since it finally bought a perpetual license to its own OS from its Japanese owner last year. Whether or not it's enough to save Palm I don't know but this $99 sorta-smartphone is a timely

My colleague Eric Zeman already has written about the new Palm Centro, unveiled yesterday at the Digital Life show in NYC. I just want to add: this is a great idea on Palm's part, the smartest move the company has made since it finally bought a perpetual license to its own OS from its Japanese owner last year. Whether or not it's enough to save Palm I don't know but this $99 sorta-smartphone is a timely and slick piece of technology.Zeman points out correctly that "Of the 160 million cell phones sold annually in the U.S., just 5%, or 8 million, are smartphones," and that 5% gets a disproportionate amount of attention from both vendors and IT journalists like us. Going after the other 152 million with a user-friendly gadget for under 100 bucks is a no-brainer, but it took the rather desperate straits in which Palm finds itself to get someone to do it.

The Centro offers "the power of a broadband smartphone at the price of a standard 12-key phone," said Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm, at the debut press conference. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but there's no question that this device could open up smartphone-style browsing and mobile e-mail to an entire new class of consumers. That's an overdue move.

It's no accident that Palm, swiftly slipping behind its larger and more innovative rivals, and Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier, have teamed on the Centro. Marketing breakthroughs often come from companies playing catch-up.

I think it'll sell steadily if not spectacularly, and I think it gives Palm, whose Treo line of smartphones retains a fiercely loyal if dwindling corps of enterprise users, a whole new market niche.

P.S. Eric's post is worth re-reading for the argument played out in the comments, which provides a snapshot of the creaky oligopoly that still prevails in the U.S. wireless carrier market.

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