Take yourself back a few years and Palm were a failing company with plummeting stock and dwindling cash levels. Their future certainly looked bleak at best, but then CES 2009 came along, and the Palm Pre with it. I’m just going to come right out and say this: I love WebOS. It’s undoubtedly a great mobile OS and a platform worthy of much more market share than it currently holds.
The question, therefore, is obvious. Why are Palm still failing to turn a profit? Could they have done anything different when releasing WebOS and the Palm Pre, or is Apple just too strong a force to contend with? The problem, in my opinion, lies in three places.
Taking a look back at CES 2009, when WebOS was announced at Palm’s press conference on January 8th, the blogosphere was buzzing with excitement in anticipation for the eventual release of the Pre. The level of excitement surrounding the product more than Palm have seen for a long time, but by the time people could get their hands on one, it was June – a long time to wait in the world of technology.
In all honesty, timing of the release couldn’t have been worse; as per usual, WWDC was coming up, and rumours of a new iPhone were rife (and right). Sure enough, less than two weeks later, the iPhone 3GS was released. By this time, excitement levels for the Pre had calmed significantly, and the sales figures showed this…
Ok, so the release date may have been a bit of a calamity, but Palm can recover from that can’t they? Maybe, but their second mistake affected sales figures as much as their first: choosing to partner exclusively with Sprint in the US at release. an exclusive partnership with America’s third place carrier won’t win any company great sales – you’re isolating a lot of people, and together with the excitement for the iPhone 3GS, the Pre’s initial sales were poor for any company, especially one with a ticking time bomb on their cash reserves.
When the Palm eventually brought their latest handset to the UK, they made the Palm Pre exclusive to O2, a great choice for the British market, with the phone available on a Pay Monthly deal with all plans giving you the phone for free and contracts starting from just £30 a month. I’d personally like Palm to release the Pre unlocked and available for all carriers. Not only would this broaden their customer base significantly, but it would make a very tempting option for a lot of people in the market for a new smartphone. If the Pre was available unlocked, I may have been tempted to get one myself and put my SIM in it, but unfortunately, I’m not an O2 customer!
Palm’s final mistake in this series of nails in their coffin has got to be their marketing. Palm really need to take a leaf out of Apple’s TV advertising book when putting together their next grand marketing scheme, because their previous ads have been nothing short of abysmal. The first time I saw the Pre advert in the UK, I was shocked at how little you actually saw of WebOS! It’s a great OS, and Palm shouldn’t be scared of showing it to the world. As Palm aren’t showing of WebOS on their commercials, they’re missing a great opportunity – it’s the best Mobile OS for multi-tasking, social networking integration is second to none, and it looks great! If they start showing people what their phone can do, sales will undoubtedly shoot up, what are they waiting for?
Time’s running out for Palm, and it would be a great shame to see a platform fail because of mistakes in release schedules and marketing – hopefully, we’ll see more of a recovery for Palm in the coming months with it announcing updates for the Palm Pre Plus handset at CES 2010, but for now, it doesn’t look great. What do you think the future holds for Palm? Will they come back with another great handset or have they missed their last real chance of conquering the smartphone market and are now left wating to be bought out by one of the boys such as Google (Nexus One), Apple (iPhone 4.0), Microsoft (Windows Phone) or HTC (Desire) for their remaining assets, that being their patents?