The Pre will be Palm's downfall

The Pre will be Palm's downfall

Summary: Palm said yesterday that sales will be well below expectations because customers are waiting for the company's fabled Pre to launch.The wait may be the company's downfall.


Palm said yesterday that sales will be well below expectations because customers are waiting for the company's fabled Pre to launch.

The wait may be the company's downfall.

I recall the electricity in the air as Palm revealed its Pre smartphone at International CES 2009. You could hear the camera shutters clacking and people just couldn't help but murmur while offering hearty applause. Techies have fond memories of Palm. People want them to succeed. So it was no surprise that there was such an outpouring of excitement, and kudos to Palm for the deft decision to stage the company comeback and debut a smartphone at a trade show known for everything but mobile consumer electronics.

It was a wasted opportunity.

In exchange for showing how technologically in-touch the company is with the user, Palm has revealed how grossly out-of-touch it is with the consumer. And, however impossible it may have been, it's my firm belief that Palm should have had the Pre ready to roll on January 8, 2009.

That consumers are still waiting for the fabled Pre two months after the big reveal -- and may wait up to four more, according to the original "first half of 2009" timetable -- is shameful. Not because consumers are left anticipating a new phone, but because Palm revealed so very much about the device (and its revolutionary new operating system webOS) at CES and yet still hasn't made public a firm launch date, much less actually produced the thing.

Worse, the company has already burned through nearly all the money it raised to remain a viable company.

Allow me to indulge in a brief metaphor:

The shot clock is ticking down. Palm, you were just passed the ball. You're in the right spot on the court. You're open, but three guards are rushing toward you: Apple, RIM and HTC. The clock is ticking. The crowd is watching.

They want you to win. You're down by a basket. Shoot. The. Ball!

Well, you get my point. What was heralded as Palm's saving grace -- the Pre and webOS -- is now the very thing that might bring it down; the potential Chinese Democracy of the mobile world. (Ok, ok -- so the Palm won't take 14 years to debut. But with so much promise, six months feels like an awful long time to keep people (and shareholders) waiting.)

Palm should not have offered pre-registration at CES. It should have delivered. It's not as though the device was only on the drawing board -- Palm had working units that employees used to demonstrate for the press, in the flesh, in a private room. It is not managing that disconnect very well in the public sphere.

Since then, the only major news on the Pre front is that Best Buy may be its exclusive retailer, a confusing (rumored) move considering that the retailer's main rival, Circuit City, went belly-up.

And with every passing day, the competition gets closer to matching and surpassing Palm's innovation.

Look, I think the Pre and webOS are going to be great, Sprint notwithstanding. I'm looking for an iPhone, BlackBerry and G1 alternative just like everyone else. I anticipate having touch and QWERTY on one device. I am excited about the "card" interface, which I find quite innovative. I await the slick and seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook, AOL Instant Messenger and Gmail, altogether.

I await a phone that can please a power user who power-uses for work and home with equal fervor.

So I'm rooting for Palm, in that underdog way. There's a lot of promise there. The smartphone wars can only be good for the end user.

But Palm is frittering away its advantage -- the excitement and patience of those who anticipate the Pre and webOS (along with the money needed to deliver). To the point where the actual device may not be able to satiate what the announcement provoked.

And for that, the Pre will be Palm's downfall.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Palm Pre

    Awwwww man!
  • So, Palm is still slow :(.

    You are right that they should've launched the product. We've waited long enough for *something* from Palm - and now we have to wait longer?

    It's a shame. They come out with what really looks like a real competitor - and now we have to wait for it?

    Again, Palm is showing how slow they have really become.

    Really, Palm, why are you so slow?

    Why do you move at a glacial pace while every other competitor just passes by?

    Frankly, this shows that Palm still doesn't have their edge back. They may have a sleek new OS, but their business model is still stuck in the stone age. They still can't change fast enough.
    • It's 2001 all over again...

      Palm did this back before the .COM bust in 2001. I worked for Extended Systems and Palm was going to buy the company. The agreement was unveiled to great hoopla.

      Then Palm announced that the sales of their products was being hurt because they had PRE-ANNOUNCED a product and it wasn't ready for some months afterwards.

      Stock price went from very nice to nothing (taking ours with it) in short order. Change of CEO's since then but they are doing the same thing all over.

      Bye-bye Palm. Sheesh.

  • RE: The Pre will be Palm's downfall

    What ever happened to the good old days when Palm would release new products every month and everyone complained that was too quick?
  • RE: The Pre will be Palm's downfall

    The real mistake that Palm is making is not going with Verizon. My two years is up and I qualify for a large discount on a new phone. I would gladly wait the time to ge the Pre. My current phone still works so I do not have to rush out and get another. Bad move Palm,
    • Why Sprint ?

      If you want to survive, you can't go with Sprint.
      I want a Pre, but I don't want Sprint. So, I'm done with Palm - my current Treo 700P will be my last Palm device.
      • WHy Not Sprint!!!

        I've been with Sprint 15 Years and never had a problem; started with a phone the size of a brick down to the piece of junk Mogul I have now. I can't wait for the Pre any longer and Sprint doesn't have anything close to offer so Verizon here I come and I'll suffer with a Blackberry Storm or Curve. Hope Palm makes it; if not you had a good run now die peacefully.
        • View the coverage maps

          Pull up the coverage maps offered on Sprint, Verizon/Alltel and AT&T's sites.
          With Sprint, only if you live in a big city or stay on major highways, will you have "non-premium coverage".
          In my opinion, the coverage is not suitable for business travelers or if you belong to the RV/camper crowd - I belong to both.
      • Don't miss the Sprint/Nextel boat!

        I'll keep my Treo 700P until the Preo (sic.) is ready for Sprint/Nextel service. Don't mistake the old Sprint for the new company, though. Many bad customer service decisions were made in the past, but today Sprint/Nextel is in the vanguard of customer relations and service. My small family business uses six Sprint/Nextel devices, three PalmOS Treos and one Blackberry and two Samsung smartphones. Everyone is more than happy with the service and coverage (which improves on a daily basis) but most important, to me, is the fixed nature of our Sprint bill. Sprint has reduced my bill almost bi-monthly since we started with Sprint/Nextel almost four years ago. We didn't reduce service usage, we almost doubled it, yet every other month or so I would receive a Sprint eCare email that delineated further savings that I could opt into by replying. All customer service interactions are resolved with more than satisfaction, as well.

        My previous experiences with:
        first AT&T, they offered a $99 unlimited monthly account but monthly bills averaged $300 and I was never able to get a customer no-service person to rectify this or even help, phones were returned during the 90 day grace period.

        second Verizon, everyone in my area touted the coverage, yet my customers that used Sprint seemed to have better service everywhere. But, the billing nightmare was unbelieveable. Two phones with unlimited everything for $225 yet no monthly bill was ever less than twice that amount, many were four and five times that number. Customer service had a new "plan" almost every month that would make my phone bill predictable, but it never happened! This culminated in a $2200 bill one month that included $1.10/minute surcharges during several weeks in New Orleans. Even though there was never a late payment on the account, three months prior to the end of contract, Verizon informed me that a $1000 deposit would be required to continue the account. I declined, they sent a service disconnection notice effective May 14, 2007 and on that day I switched to Sprint with no deposit required and have only seen my business and phone usage grow while my effective bill has steadily decreased. Verizon has turned my account over to collection (after the issue was resolved with Verizon's customer service) for the contract's $175 early termination fee. I am dealing with the fourth collection agency, who like the others, wants to "cleat this matter up" for only $225!

        To sum up; I am paying less than 50% of my original, happily contracted, Sprint/Nextel service agreement, because THEY continually reduced my bill. I pay a fixed amount every month for unlimited everything on six pda/smartphones (the three Treos are also used as broadband modems) and all six users are ecstatic over the quality of service. Sprint is developing and instituting, through Clearwire, advanced service offerings that will only increase my satisfaction. My Treo, with its multimedia capabilities, while not supported with as many applications as the iPhone, already allowed me to do many of the things an iPhone can do, many of them better than the iPhone, and I don't have to be restricted to iTunes and The App Store. With the Preo's (sic.) gps, accelerometer and simulated gyroscopic orientation, the capabilities of the iPhone should be surpassed and the open dev platform of WebOS should really stimulate new applications. I already make business iPhone users envy my capabilities with my old Treo and its "clunky" old PalmOS. I wish the Pre were here today, but I'm glad Sprint has had the foresight to bet on the device that will level the smartphone playing field and offer the very best in service and support.

        Michael Lee Duttweiler
        • Verizon here

          Just did a spot check around the office:

          AT&T No Coverage
          Sprint: 1 bar
          The last guy with a pure Nextel Phone: HAH!
          The Verizon users are yakkin away.
          Too Old For IT
      • Why Sprint ?

        my thoughts exactly.. the second they announced Sprint would have the exclusive thru 09 was the moment I started pricing an iPhone. I have resisted the apple better than most Adams I know but given no choice but to starve ? /shrug
        • starve?

          It is just a phone. Get some priorities straight. At least to me waiting a few months for a phone is no big deal. Why can you not wait?
    • Et tu, Brute?!!

      I'm in the same situation. I've been trying to convince my wife to take my phone (Treo 755) so I can get the Pre. We're w/ Verizon and it would have been a 'no-brainer' if the Pre would have been w/ Verizon.... The Palm move to go w/ Sprint just left me I scratching my head!
    • Should be service-agnostic

      Long ago third party smart phone providers should have made their handsets standards aware and globally *yes, US included) service agnostic.
      Too Old For IT
  • RE: The Pre will be Palm's downfall

    I'm almost surprised at the lack of parallel drawn between
    Palm and Osbourne.

    This has all happened before...
    • Oh the Osborne..

      I'm surprised someone actually remembers that beautiful piece of gear. I had one and loved it - got a hernia - but loved it. Too bad they fell asleep at the switch just like Palm is doing.
      • I was going to mention the Osborne Effect, too.

    • Damned if you do or don't

      Palm needed to generate some excitement to counteract the continual mentions of their irrelevance and pending death in the media. Introducing the Pre was critical to keeping investors and lenders in the game, but if it isn't ready when released, they'll get slammed again. Take a look at the Storm - not quite ready for prime time at introduction, and we now have a couple of Samsung smart-phones even though we went to the Verizon store intending to buy BB Storms.
  • Couldn't agree more

    I just saw yesterday that Palm has cut it's expected sales for 3Q waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down. The reason? No one is all that interested in the Centros and Treos, now that they have seen the Pre. If it wasn't ready yet, it shouldn't have been shown to the degree that it was.

    I will be much more sad if Palm doesn't make it than I will about GM or Chrysler. Palm was an innovator and impacted so many of our lives with their products. To see them so close to a comeback with such a great product, and then still not make it would be a shame.
    • I'd better get the updates ...

      I'd better get the updates for my old B&W Palm before they go toes up.
      Too Old For IT