A tale of two handheld players: RIM vs. Palm

A tale of two handheld players: RIM vs. Palm

Summary: This a tale of two well-known handheld device makers--Research in Motion and Palm--and their standing in the market. Both companies had investor powwows this week.

TOPICS: BlackBerry

This a tale of two well-known handheld device makers--Research in Motion and Palm--and their standing in the market.

Both companies had investor powwows this week. Palm held an analyst meeting and RIM reported strong earnings.

The biggest difference between the two? One, RIM, knows where it's going and is pushing the R&D envelope. The other, Palm, doesn't know its direction well enough to serve up any meaningful details.

Let's compare and contrast:

On the product roadmap:

Palm served up little detail beyond saying that its Treo line will be updated. There may even be more snazzy form factors as Palm rolls out a "platforming" strategy that will  enable it to develop devices faster. Palm also talked about  differentiated smartphones. "Although the company made clear that it has multiple new products coming out this year, it refused to highlight any time-tables, price-points, or form-factor data points at the conference," said Morgan Keegan analyst Tavis McCourt.

RIM had a different tone since it just launched the  BlackBerry 8800. "The BlackBerry 8800 launched on schedule in the quarter with AT&T in the U.S. and was announced with  approximately 30 carriers in the rest of the world," said  RIM co-CEO James Balsillie on the company's earnings conference call. "This is the fastest global ramp  we have ever had for a new product launch and the rollout  across these multiple markets has been a success."

On the consumer market:

Palm merely hinted more consumer friendly devices, according to McCourt. "We do believe that new handsets will be  developed at lower price-points, with more limited  functionality in order to target the massive consumer opportunity more effectively," said McCourt.

RIM is already lighting up the consumer market. "If I had to bet, I don’t think it will be too long before consumer  outsells enterprise. I think it might be a little sooner than people imagine but it is just going to be race of who  is growing more extra fast," said Balsillie. Meanwhile, RIM has worked on packaging the Pearl to appeal to consumers. After all, a red Pearl or white Pearl is considered innovation by carriers.

On the software platform:

Palm's big news was that it would restore the Palm OS via Linux. In other words, Palm devices will now be available in  Windows Mobile and Palm. The big questions: Can the Palm OS  regain its momentum after being neglected? Will Palm muddle  its OS message with Palm and Windows? RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky speculates that Palm may cook up web  applications for storage, photos and applications to woo small businesses and consumers.

RIM is straightforward. It has its own operating system that will gain momentum as Pearls are sold at a rapid clip. While Windows Mobile may be a threat, Balsillie noted that "a switch went off sometime" as carriers saw RIM's software as more than just a niche  business application. "There is a real intense focus on  carriers for profit right now and they have seen that the  strategic BlackBerry platform is not just a browser pipe  model to disintermediate them," said Balsillie. RIM also recently announced the BlackBerry Java developer environment so new applications can be built.

International growth:

Palm talked about its international plans a bit, but for the  most part the company is confined to North America and Latin  America. ThinkEquity analyst Jonathan Hoopes notes that China is going to become Palm's focus, but not until 2008 or  2009.

RIM has been expanding internationally and forging carrier agreements to carry the BlackBerry. Carriers added in the quarter included CLARO in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, DoCoMo U.S.A., Vivo Brazil, Fastlink  Jordan, China Mobile Hong Kong, and Vodafone in Bahrain,  Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Advantage RIM by a wide margin.

Topic: BlackBerry

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  • As a Palm handheld user who ...

    ... struggled with the decision whether to go Treo or BlackBerry in 2004, I chose the BlackBerry and now I wouldn't go back!

    My newest Palm is relegated to displaying Photos and being an eBook Reader. I'd use it for music too if I didn't own an iPod but for personal productivity, the BlackBerry wins out!

    In the end, I am not surprised by your report. The Palm has remained essentially unchanged for years. I only bought my Palm TX for the larger screen and I seriously doubt I will own another one.

    I am not entirely sure that Palm will survive at all.
    M Wagner
  • What Palm needs to do

    First of all, redesign the form factor. Treos have basically had the same size and shape for several years now. Unacceptable when thin is in. Two, once that have Linux running, they should dump Win Mobile completely. There are plenty of handhelds out there running crappy Win Mobile. Continuing to offer both does nothing but confuse consumers. You need to make your product stand out and want people to buy it, offering Win Mobile doesn't do that. Third, lower your prices. Treos cost much more then other smartphones.
  • excuse me?

    rim a bigger global market player? last i checked:
    -HSDPA-enabled Windows Mobile-based Palm Treo 750 Smartphone in Italy
    -Treo 680 Smartphone in Brazil
    - Treo 750 Smartphone on 3 Network in Austria
    - Netherlands to Deliver Palm Treo 750 Smartphone
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Ecuador
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Chile
    - Treo 700p Smartphone in Mexico
    - Treo 700wx Smartphone in Puerto Rico
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Argentina
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Peru
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in El Salvador
    - Treo 750 Smartphone on Next G Network in Australia
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Guatemala
    - Treo 750 Smartphone in Europe
    - Treo 700wx in Brazil
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Mexico
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Switzerland
    - Treo 680 Smartphone to the Philippines
    - Treo 680 Smartphone in Singapore
    - Palm and Orange France Announce Treo 680 Smartphone
    - Treo 700wx in Venezuela
    - Treo 680 on Rogers Wireless Network in Canada
    - Palm Treo 750v in Hong Kong
    - Treo 750v Smartphone for Vodafone New Zealand Customers
    - Treo 700wx Smartphone on Bell Canada's Network
    - Treo 750v in Malaysia
    - Treo 750v in Indonesia
    - Treo 650 Smartphone on Movistar Network in Peru

    and that's just the last 6 months! just because Palm did it first and RIM made the annocement later but solo doesn't mean they did anything that Palm hasn't already done :-p
    • Yes much bigger

      Yes RIM is actually a much much bigger player than Palm internationally. BlackBerry is sold through about 250 operators worldwide - I doubt Palm is sold through more than 100.

      Most operators in Europe don't sell Palm devices, whereas practically every single operator in Europe has a range of RIM devices. Here in Europe smartphones are HTC devices (whatever the brand) and BlackBerry - Palm simply does not exist in Europe.

      If you are still in doubt just compare financial reuslts.