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Summary:

Today, after a nearly year-long delay, Palm announced WebOS, a brand-new web-centric mobile operating system, and the Palm Pre, its first WebOS-powered device. With this twin release Palm hopes to stage a comeback in the mobile business. But while most gadget gurus seem to be quite taken with the newest shiniest object, I remain highly skeptical of Palm’s chance to succeed with this new effort.

palmpreToday, after a nearly year-long delay, Palm announced WebOS, a brand-new web-centric mobile operating system, and the Palm Pre, its first WebOS-powered device. With this twin release of seemingly cutting edge products, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Palm hopes to stage a comeback in the mobile business.

While most gadget gurus (and lots of readers who follow me on Twitter) seem to be quite taken with the newest shiniest object, thanks to Palm Chairman Jon Rubenstein’s magic, the power of a press release and the drama of a CES keynote, I remain highly skeptical of Palm’s chance to succeed with this new effort. I may be the only one who isn’t buying it.

Many seem to have skimmed over the fact that the Pre has features that are typical of any smartphone sold over the holidays. Sure, it looks better than some Microsoft Mobile devices, HTC’s Tilt or some of the Samsung devices, but it its feature set is no different than, say, a Nokia E71. As Michael Gartenberg points out, Pre’s feature set is the equivalent of table stakes in order to play in the smartphone business. That said, he likes what he sees:

The UI is smooth and works pretty seamlessly as they’ve showed. Palm’s always understood how to do a good mobile UI and it’s clear that they’ve applied everything they’ve learned over the years to this device and platform. The Synergy technology is very impressive.

So what? That doesn’t guarantee success. I don’t think Pre has done anything to move the needle forward, though its backers — including the affable Roger McNamee — are waxing eloquent about its potential. In a market where the iPhone sets the pace, Palm is woefully behind the curve.

“Our intention was never to build an iPhone killer but to build a killer Palm product,” Rubinstein, a former Apple executive who was brought in as the executive chairman of Palm to work miracles, told The New York Times. Actually, it’s more like a Palm killer!

The Pre, which will be available on the Sprint network, won’t be released until sometime in the first half of 2009 or, as CEO Ed Colligan told the reporters in Vegas, “as soon as possible.” Technically, June 30 is in the first half of 2009. From now till the time Pre launches is going to be a crucial time for Palm. Every single day will push the company deeper and deeper into the hole it’s dug.

Why? By announcing its product too early, Palm has turned up the hype cycle around its new product offering, and that means fewer sales for its existing products. Palm and its carrier partners were already having a tough time pushing Treos out the door, and now those carrier partners are going to be none too happy. With a new Palm device on the horizon, carriers have less of an incentive to push the company’s current devices, and that means a further decline in shipments.

Last month, Palm reported a net loss of $506.2 million for its second quarter of fiscal year 2009. Sales sank to $171 million, and its shipments decreased 13 percent. It had to go to McNamee’s Elevation Partners to get $100 million in funding to keep going.

For argument’s sake, lets assume the Pre does come out on time and starts selling like hotcakes. It still doesn’t necessarily mean success. About 40 Android-powered devices are slotted to make their way to the market this year, and I am not sure if guys at Apple are resting on their laurels. An OS upgrade, a new phone form factor is among things we should expect from Apple in 2009. What that means is that Palm would be playing catch up in the marketplace with a clear leader and dozens of desperate competitors. Palm will feel the financial squeeze, especially in 2009 when the economy remains in doldrums.

Now, lets talk about the Palm WebOS, its new operating system. From what you can read on the web, it seems to be one heck-of-an operating system, that is oozing with smarts that include live searching (of the entire phone and the Web), Unified address book (Facebook, Outlook and any other address books), Unified calendaring and dozens of other such features. They even have a Webkit-based browser just like an iPhone and Symbian- and Android-powered phones. It sounds so promising that I actually want to try it out – though, after being forewarned by my readers, becoming a Sprint customer is out of the question.

The question now is, will Palm be able to get a lot of developers to come and develop for the platform? Yes, we know they have a loyal community and millions of developers, but the momentum is with Apple and Google. As I pointed out earlier today, the iPod Touch is the secret weapon that makes the iPhone-platform attractive to the developers.

So, now you know where I stand. What do you think about Palm and its prospects?

  1. You West-coast & big-City guys always dis Sprint, but here in Michigan it is the best (& cheapest) game in town. Good data for 5 years, great data for 3 years, 3G in most cities (not just Detroit!). Compare Verizon & AT&T which just barely introduced EVDO or EDGE or 3G in the last few months. And nothing at all to/from the beautiful north (e.g. Traverse City) where I spend summer weekends. It’s all about the network!! My Treo is getting long, long in the tooth, even though it is still the smartest interface around. The Pre ought to be the next great thing for me.

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    1. @Pat

      I am sure you are right about Sprint in Michigan. My family is there and they are happy but of course on the coasts they find it hard to use the service. Good luck with The Pre when it comes and come back and share the experience. Of course one must not forget that they are going after the smartphone buyers – and many do live in cities where they have terrible coverage.

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  2. Om, you have no idea what you are talking about…STFU and do some hands on research for once.

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    1. @omisianidoit like all those geniuses who did hands on research and yes when it comes out i will do the hands on research. i just hope that you had the balls to use your real name if you were going to call me an idiot.

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  3. Om, please give Palm the benefit of the doubt. Historically I think Palm is sort of going through what Apple did after Steve Jobs returned. A slow resurgence of Palm is on the way and I can appreciate that from a consumer point of view, essentially it will drive further innovation in a very competitive industry. Microsoft,RIMM your move. I would suggest you hold out on the predictions for the moment remember Hulu?

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    1. @ryclarkeus

      Of course I give them the benefit of the doubt, and if I am wrong, then I am wrong. Yes, Hulu prediction I remember – and I reversed my opinion. Lets see what Palm does now. As I said: not buying the press release, keynote and talk. They need to put the devices on the shelves.

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  4. This is a cool one. I like the round style..

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  5. Excellent points, Om. While the new WebOS is certainly slick, and has some killer features around connectivity, I don’t think it’s enough to really save the company. The pre, imo, is just the black, egg-shaped nail in the coffin. As you mentioned, it doesn’t have any features that aren’t available across the majority of smartphones already on the market – much less those that will likely to be available by the time the pre hits shelves.

    Also, as you mentioned, the time frame for launch is….well, even today, it’s delayed, much less if it doesn’t come out till June. Add to that the lack of announced price (usually not a good sign), and the fact that Palm went with Sprint, the smallest of the four major carriers, and also the one struggling to make ends meet, and the pre has the odds stacked heavily against it.

    Obviously, I don’t know full financial details of Palm’s business, but if the Centro, which is now available across 3 of the 4 major carriers in the U.S., isn’t enough to save the company, launching a single phone, up to 6 months from now, on the smallest (and shrinking) of the 4 major carriers is surely not a great way to turn a company around.

    With phones such as the N97 coming out, and the iPhone due for an update, and Nokia’s budget-priced E63, not to mention the countless other qwerty smartphones coming across the carriers soon, I just can’t see how the pre is going to do much damage. Even you were already warned by your readers not to get in bed with Sprint (you have wise readers, btw, I’ve been there, done that, it’s ugly.)

    It’s kinda interesting that two major companies have tied this little black egg around their necks for 2009. The only thing more perfect is if Motorola had built the hardware or something.

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  6. Very good points om,especially about the relear date. But I think he iphone shows how far a great ui can take you in the still-young smartphone market. Palm doesn’t have the itunes ecosystem to leverage but the pre is a good step for a company that’s on life support.

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  7. Om, you’re right when you say Pre alone won’t be able to turn around Palm’s fortunes. But I think you’re being too hard on them in areas where they’ve done a capable job, and not hard enough on areas they ought to improve on.

    Palm Pre’s features may be on par with the Nokia E71 (and therefore table stakes), but so what? Damned if they did, damned if they didn’t? They’ve shown themselves capable of building a phone that can compete seriously on features and user experience. Even the Centro wasn’t a badly designed smartphone per se.

    But Palm probably won’t see a pickup in sales because i.) they haven’t been able to articulate a vision for the future, ii.) they don’t have a firm set of targeted product lines with reasonably predictable release cycles iii.) from developers’ perspective, Palm aren’t committed to a platform – their more recent Treos ran WinMobile, the Centro ran PalmOS, and now Pre runs WebOS. I have contrasted Nokia’s prowess on these counts with Samsung’s in an August 2008 article (http://www.rahulgaitonde.org/2008/08/14/samsung-needs-a-brand-strategy/).

    It’s impossible for them to build hype around a product (unlike, say, Apple or Nokia) because no one (buyers, carriers, developers) have any idea what Palm is going to throw at them, why and when (or at all).

    Palm is looking to every new release to save their sagging fortunes. That isn’t a healthy sign at all. That’s evidence enough that they aren’t looking long-term. Heck, they’re just looking to ride out the next quarter and then hope for the best.

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  8. Om : Why such gloom ?

    The WebOS is the best thing to happen to Palm in years and here are some counter points (to the rather excellent arguments you have made)

    1) The other palm products are windows mobile powered treos for enterprise and centros for the just entering smart phone crowd – Both these segments are not going to buy a Pre right now. The hope is eventually they will. So cannibalisation is not really an issue

    2) Sprint will market the hell out of this phone. Strong marketing caused a samsung instinct to ratchet up good sales inspite of being a crappy device … Sprint is a decent network for some people and is in need of a good device to prevent people leaving. The Pre is just that device…

    3) The os is amazing and revolutionary especially the app architecture – The UI alone seems way more polished than android … The device is better than the G1 .. Sure Android powered devices next year will give Pre’s headaches.. But the device and the OS can compete …

    4) By taking a rdically different approach to apps (HTML/CSS/JS + Mojo) Palm has made writing apps more accessible. Expect a lot of web2.0 apps almost immediately

    5) Finally a phone which can challenge iPhone aesthetically !

    6) A well integrated IM is missing from the iPhone among other features – This device can compete with the iPhone in some segments …

    Palm may or may not survive financially and in that case expect them to be acquisition bait for all those who have been trying to create iPhone killers and failing – I am looking at you Nokia …

    Palm has the technical chops to survive – The problem is the current recession makes their financial survival hard. That said considering the mediocrity around them and the long term strategic importance of the smartphone space I hope the webos is still around ! The alternatives are too hard to bear and Apple will walk away with this market uncontested …

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    1. @Yuvamani

      Good points – I agree they have done the good job of the WebOS and lets see if this is going to be enough.

      #1. cannibalization is an issue – why would you want to buy a lesser smart phone when a new, shiny one is going to come.

      on your point #2 — lets see how that goes. Sprint will market a lot and then what? Remember Verizon marketing the blackberry scream.

      #3, It can compete for sure, but the company doesn’t have the deep pockets for prolonged fight. We shall see if they will. I think there is a lot of emotional attachment with this company and the fact is that everyone loves a phone that is much like any other phone tells me that people want it to win. So they got that going for them,

      On point #5, lets just say you and I have different measure of aesthetics.

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  9. We can hope that when Palm goes out of business they’ll opensource WebOS….

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  10. The API is HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. HTML5 storage. Multiple apps running with a JSON message bus. This thing is going to awesome for making mashup type apps.

    This is the first “cloud” phone. I would have thought Om would have liked that.

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  11. @Pat Sprint has a terrible reputation for customer service here in the west coast, but I have not personally been a customer. BTW Traverse City has some great wineries for Alsatian wine – and I say this from California.

    I agree Palm must get the Pre out ASAP – each day is sales lost but I’m sure the issue is the extensive testing carriers demand.

    I like the design, although I would prefer a slider keyboard on the wide side of the phone, but as a BB user I’m used to the narrow keys.

    The reality is that just one demo doesn’t make a product successful – we all need to get our hands on it and try it out. Pricing would help too.

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  12. I’m a Mac and iPhone application developer and I’m telling you guys right now: I’ll be in line to get a Pre the day it comes out. I’ll be signing up for Sprint, getting a second line (iPhone is the main line) and will be developing applications for it ASAP. As soon as the SDK comes out, I’m on it. And I bet a ton of people I know will be doing the same thing.

    Why?

    Ease of entry into the new segment.

    The entire OS is basically one big, suped-up, WebKit rendering block running XML & CSS widgets as applications. WebKit is the best open source rendering engine out there right now, and it’s just going to get faster and better so running locally-accessible code within it (a Pre app) will be very fast. VERY FAST. Accessing internal phone functions and native core functionality will be as simple as a custom Javascript object setup to pass messages back to the runtime environment. This is exactly how Cocoa + Javascript talk to each other on the Mac and iPhone and it works incredibly well.

    The ease of entry comes at a price, however, and that price is game programming difficulty. 3D games for the iPhone are written using native OpenGL calls straight to the GPU, so unless Palm has some crazy tricks up its sleeve (like JIT compilation of Javascript for native processing) it’s going to get hairy writing games for the Pre in just Javascript. It can be done, and many of the “casual” games currently available for the iPhone could be ported to the Pre using Javascript, but the advanced 3D games won’t have a chance. Is that a deal-breaker? Who knows. Probably not.

    Om, your analysis is very good and I think withholding final judgment is smart at this stage, especially as it relates to Palm’s future.

    As a Mac and iPhone aficionado/developer, I’m going to stick my neck on the limb and say that this is a huge deal. The Palm Pre doesn’t have the specs of a highend Nokia smartphone, or perhaps the latest and greatest from HTC, but with Palm and Sprint working together, I think they have the best shot out of everyone vying for Apple’s throne.

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  13. Hi Om,

    I think you’re being overly pessimistic. This phone has a lot of features which have been missing from the iPhone for a while now. While it remains to be seen how their dev environment works, Palm has always been pretty good with courting developers.

    You are not counting the fact that Palm, Inc. is full of executives and developers who are from Apple and RIM. They have a huge incentive to knock this out of the park.

    By the way, I live in San Jose and have had Sprint here since 1999. No coverage problems whatsoever. In fact, it seems just as good as AT&T (which tends to drop calls.) Also, customer service is hit or miss but when you find a “hit” they really go out of their way for you! I have had some of the most amazing customer service reps at Sprint. You just have to bounce around a few of the stupid ones before you get to them.

    Sprint is not perfect, but then again, I pay $60/month total for two Palm Centros, 1000 min shared, 500 txts/month/phone, unlimited data+tethering. I pay about half what most pay for 1 iPhone for 2 Centros, and split the cost with my boyfriend (who uses the other Centro.)

    Ask yourself this: what could Palm have done right in your opinion? I know you were bearish on their prospects for survival, and frankly they hit it out of the park with this phone (at least with the demo.) But you’re still negative. I don’t get it.

    -Erica

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  14. sprint is desperate and will market this device hard because they don’t have a franchise device right now. at&t=iphone, verizon=bb bold, t-mobile=g1, sprint=DAN HESSE (remember Terabeam anyone?)??!?! who does that guy think he is featuring himself walking across the cutesy downtown kansas city bridge near the plaza? he’s not dave from wendy’s, he’s a freaking telecom exec that nobody recognizes and he’s done a horrific job (ok, he’s only had a year so we’ll cut him a little slack) with a company that needs a top to bottom purge of talent and probably a hq move that he’s busy re-reversing back to overland park. hard to stay on top of what becomes more and more a technology and style business when you’re based in kansas and hiring from that region.

    palm will follow-up with gsm devices within 3-6 months.

    have to say the device looks better than i thought it would.

    hmmm… will palm survive alone? i’ll say no. they get bought for what? $200M?

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  15. I like the concept – although it’s hard to say without working with the system. The idea of JS hardware abstraction is quite exciting. Learning curve and ease of deployment would be huge pluses. Done correctly, it could seriously be cool to work with.

    It looks more polished than Android – and iPhone still can’t even cut/paste or multitask. Count one Android developer who will be trying the SDK – and most likely developing at least a couple titles with it.

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  16. I’d like to second Mike Randal’s observation about a low-level graphics library and GL support. It will be interesting to see how they address this – if at all.

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  17. [...] (For an alternative, more enthusiastic response, check out Ben Patterson’s post. For a slightly more skeptical viewpoint, see Om Malik’s insightful post.) [...]

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  18. Great article and very interesting poingts you brought us, Om!
    I really hope, that Palm survives this year, but it’s really difficult…

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  19. I think that you are overestimating the hardware features and underestimating the importance of a useful UI. Just look at comments when the iPhone was released. There was a bunch of criticisms about the hardware features, but at the end, the convenience of its UI was the key to the massive acceptance. Even my wife, who is rarely interested in any gadget and has no idea about Apple or Steve Jobs, was impressed by it.

    I think that now days, when most people has half of their lives on line (email, chat, skype, social networks, youtube) betting on tight integration with internet is a very smart move. And what I’ve seen so far is far from what is available in other devices.

    I’ve been looking for an smart phone and if this device becomes available unlocked, I will seriously consider it just for the nice integration with internet.

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  20. “Many seem to have skimmed over the fact that the Pre has features that are typical of any smartphone sold over the holidays.”

    The iPhone had (and still has) a feature set that’s worse than almost all of its competitors, and that doesn’t seem to have damaged its chances. Feature sets are only part of the story: usability is actually more important.

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  21. as of now it seems to be a good iPhone competitor but as rightly said “Apple was also not sleeping all these months”. What I personally believe is that now any new change to iPhone OS and hardware will again put iPhone 5 years ahead of its competition.

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  22. WebOs is an interesting concept .I believe a device agnostic webos has more potential.It can be done if a web app framework is built on top of the operating system. One such attempt is done by us at Mobisy, Bangalore. We have built a web app framework to create mesh-ups between Mobile native apis and web apps called as Mobitop. Mobitop works on top of existing mobile operating systems like Symbian Windows Mobile and iPhone.

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  23. [...] is what Om says: So what? That doesn’t guarantee success. I don’t think Pre has done anything to move the [...]

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  24. [...] the press conference and wowed a lot of folks–including our own Andrew Nusca. But reality looms. Om Malik notes that he is skeptical that Palm’s latest and greatest can save the company. Om says he appears to be the only one that’s [...]

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  25. [...] seem to be caught in an almost Jobsian Distortion field. A field that is slowly being punctured as people step back and look at Palm’s business model and burn rate of VC cash from Elevation [...]

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  26. “…Pre really exciting. Jury’s out on whether it will be a game-changer, but it’s def a Palm-changer.” – Ryan Block
    http://twitter.com/ryanblock/status/1105635396

    I would add that without a well defined social object for the entire, non geek, community to rally around ( iTunes songs ) the Pre won’t succeed the way Palm and its investors hope. That doesn’t mean they can’t develop a social object, but until they do: “meh” :/

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  27. One thing that comes to my mind right away is that have you ever thought of the actual people who have been using Treo? I use an iphone but dont agree with many points here.
    1. iphone though is a great touch phone its most often looked at as an extension of ipod/nano. I know many house wives who bought it just for fun. For a techie guy, this is not the best option. You surely would not want to listen to itunes, watch youtube or browse the net for fun on phone.
    2. I also used blackberry before buying iphone and other than being a good device for e-mails there was nothing more striking.
    3. Coming to Treo, its a combo. You have a touch screen phone with a qwerty key board. I think its best of both the worlds. Add to that, the power of integrating your calendar with GPS. Can you imagine what it could do? I think this would become a mandatory device for many of us very soon. The thought of identifying my location for meeting and informing the attendees if I end up being late automatically is mind blogging.

    I have not read many reviews of Om to judge his calibre but I can see that you are the only guy who is not excited with launch of Treo while all other tech/marketing experts are screaming on top of their voices that this is the best thing to happen to palm.

    For those, who are saying AAPL isn’t sleeping dont forget that the team behind new Treo has best veterans of Aaple in it. They took almost two years to come out with this product. I am sure they are smart enough to know that Aaple wouldn’t be sleeping and I dont think they would either…

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  28. Jacob Varghese Friday, January 9, 2009

    I like the idea of the WebOS, but don’t you guys think that the phone itself is kinda of fugly?

    It looks dated in 2009.

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  29. Jacob Varghese Friday, January 9, 2009

    Dimensions: 59.57mm (W) x 100.53mm (L, closed) x 16.95mm (D)
    [2.35 inches (W) x 3.96 inches (L, closed) x 0.67 inches (D)]

    0.67 inches is very thick these days. Not very pocketable.

    The OS seems like a winner, but the device doesn’t appeal to me at all.

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  30. Jacob Varghese Friday, January 9, 2009

    @ Thiru

    If Apple did 2 things, it will take the lead in the smartphone market.
    1. Thin slide-out keyboard
    2. Unlocked phones

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  31. “Palm reported a net loss of $506.2 million for its second quarter of fiscal 2009″

    …shouldn’t that be 2008?

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  32. Celeste LeCompte Friday, January 9, 2009

    @JohnB. Thanks for catching that. We’ve corrected it above.

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  33. Om, you mentioned the “feature set” is like any other smartphone sold over the holidays. Please elaborate on what features you think this, or any device of this size in the smartphone market, should have (or, as is obvious, what the iPhone does so much better than the rest)? I think the interaction as I saw it on multiple videos (and I suggest everyone go to treocentral DOT com and look at Dieter Bohn’s hands-on) with all of the apps was excellent. The video viewing may still be a question on the device, but everything else seems to be spot-on. Besides PIM, music, video and a good web experience (oh, and it should make calls too!), what features do you expect a new “phone” should have. Remember, it is not a netbook. I am not a Palm fanboy or an iPhone/RIM fanboy either (waiting on iPhone V3 and/or RIM Niagara), but I was pretty impressed with what I saw yesterday. BTW – I am a long time Sprint customer but have always told everyone to pick the carrier that gives you the best coverage in your primary market. So don’t bash Sprint just because they did not work for you – ATT does not work well for me (and I remember you complaining a while back about lack of 3g service on the Jesus phone…LOL!)

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  34. [...] gizmodo.com (Video), pocketbrain.de (Details), gigaom.com (kritische [...]

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  35. This, in nutshell, doesn’t compete with iPhone and Android. This competes with Nokia’s N97 (although N97 won’t run on Sprint). It features the same type of apps (mobile web apps) which act more like widgets. It is very complicated to write a complex mobile web app, much more complicated than writing native app (screen workflow, AJAX, javascript libraries etc.).

    However, this is great approach for simple widget like apps with few screens that any PHP developer will be able to develop and that actually is very good. However, remains to be seen how native functions will be integrated in the webOS. For example, if Palm doesn’t have map module ready for use within WebOs with a few lines of javascript code, then that would instantly kill majority of LBS initiatives. One of the main advantages on Android, for example, is full blown Google Maps library available for developers to use out of the box.

    That been said, iFart type of apps, which are extremely popular on iPhone will definitely be possible on Pre ;)

    This device will sell well on Sprint, will have its army of followers and a large pool of web developers ready to build web widgets spiced up with native libraries (e.g. camera access etc.). Again, very similar approach to Nokia where OEM (Nokia and Palm), builds majority of native apps and let’s army of web developers build web widgets that have access to native phone libraries (camera, vibrator, GPS etc.). it remains to be seen how many native libraries will be available to web developers with the first release of these devices.

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  36. @HSK… AT&T is one of the worst services out there after the launch of the iPhone. I have tried Sprint in NY and San Francisco, my two primary markets and it is well not that hot.

    On the features: i mean things like:

    Stereo /music, 3G, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, fast, lots of storage (8GB), nice display (3.1-inch display, 320 x 480 — touchscreen) Touch, USB, nice jack for music playback etc.

    Yes even iPhone lacks some of those but doesn’t mean it will forever. Just a matter of time before it changes.

    Having being in the industry for too long, there is difference between hands-on at CES and hands-on in the hands of consumers. Just my two cents.

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  37. The problem Palm faces is one of market and marketing. Reading between the lines of McNamee’s comments, Palm’s strategy seems to be that the market is so big that it can live profitably as number 3 or 4 in the market.

    Palm really is in trouble if they are relying on Sprint to market the hell out of the phone. Can you imagine Steve Jobs putting the fate of the iPhone in the hands of ATT?

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  38. All Things D’s John Paczkowski as skeptical as you Om, if not more. He did a pretty thorough takedown of the device yesterday right after it debuted. Money quote:

    “Palm hasn’t raised the smartphone bar much (if at all) with the Pre. In fact, the device is as noteworthy for the features it doesn’t include as for those it does … will the Pre really be worth paying a premium for, as Colligan suggests? I’m not so sure–especially when the inevitable updates to the iPhone and BlackBerry remove the few advantages it does have over those devices. “Fast Web browsing” and “efficient multitasking” just aren’t big differentiators anymore.”

    The entire piece is definitely worth a read:

    http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20090108/palm-to-price-itself-into-oblivion/

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  39. Who exactly designed the phone? That looks like a toss-away prepaid phone. I’m possibly looking at horrible pictures, but the iphone always looks wonderful in any light. With the iphone taking the smartphone tag and running away with it; the mainstream – in my opinion – will associate smartphone with luxury and novelty. With y the iphone you get the ‘everything works’ and ‘great looks’ that get the ahhs and ooohhs. This product? It doesn’t distinguish itself from any other black phone out there. For that, it’s a lackluster smartphone designated for elite early adopter geek niche, and android already took that.

    The majority of phone subscribers still use their phones for chatting – essentially, also, explaining why SMS is so popular. It’s the middle ground of not chatting, not surfing mobile internet and synching devices, but still connecting.

    It could be a revolutionary OS, but it’s in a lackluster shell.

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  40. [...] can get one and not be forced to go with Sprint. Can the company hold out that long? Om Malik has a good counter argument as to why the Pre might not be the savior for [...]

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  41. Om,
    I wish you were wrong this time. What do you mean by “In a market where the iPhone sets the pace, Palm is woefully behind the curve.” I don’t think so. iPhone is an excellent phone. Does that mean that you cannot ignore other smartphones. In response to a reader’s comment you mentioned that “Yes even iPhone lacks some of those but doesn’t mean it will forever. Just a matter of time before it changes. ”

    The same holds good here. PALM will one up iPhone too. And so are Google, Nokia, Microsoft, RIMM.
    Go back and check Padmashree Warrior’s blog when iPhone was released.
    APPLE made a killing with iPod because Microsoft and Sony were fighting each other then with the gaming stuff.
    Not this time , APPLE will have tough time with phones. The smart phone war has begun.

    Here is my two cents
    The coolest features of iphone are the multi touch, cool stable browser, APP store, Accelarometer,Proximity Sensor.
    None of the iPhone killer phones release so far managed to do all of them , but the Pre did.

    Then PALM even added a real key board, removable battery.
    I don’t see a reason it cannot be a hit.
    I might suspect their third party applications might not explode like App Store but PALM can streamline that.

    Regarding SPRINT, I have been using it for 10 years , I never had issues with it in the east-coast corridor , NY-DC.

    Again I wish you were wrong, and I hope you will change your stand once you get your hands on the Pre.

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  42. Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote in their marketing best-sellers: “In the long run, every market becomes a two horse race”

    http://disruptionmatters.com/2008/10/16/handsets-two-horse-race/

    What race can Palm run to be a first or second?

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  43. I got to say, I’m excited about this.
    Yes, the device looks good (reminds me a bit of my old Nokia 6600 in shape and size, which is good).
    And for me as a web developer, working with clientside based solutions as well as AIR, the WebOS is realy good news!

    As a developer, the idea of an os where the software is written with HTML+CSS+JavaScript is apealing.
    BUT as a user, I’m kind of worried about it beeing the only “language” to write software in..
    These days you kind of expect a mobile phone to be able to run JAVA based software, at least I do.
    In addition, no flash support? So no youtube integration, for instance.. That’s a bummer these days.
    A web phone with no flash..

    What I think they should’ve done? Teamed up with Adobe and made the first AIR based phone OS..
    FLEX+AS3+HTML+CSS+JS.. there’s a winner..

    but all in all, I’m excited about the new OS, can’t wait untill it gets to europe so I can start developing..

    Share
  44. [...] Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? -  I remain highly skeptical of Palm’s chance to succeed with this new effort. I may be the only one who isn’t buying it. (Placing GigaOm first since I agree with him the most… what’s all the hype about?) [...]

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  45. Every phone is just a mix of features, but this one happens to have the combination of features that I actually want (specifically, a real keyboard and a decent camera).

    But the thing that is making me really want this is the developer story. They haven’t released their SDK yet, but it seems like they’re going to great lengths to make it easy for developers to create apps for the device. That would make this the first mobile device in history with a really easy way to develop mobile apps — certainly an order of magnitude easier than the iPhone or even Android. If it pans out, the developer story more than anything will be the Pre’s secret sauce.

    If it comes to Verizon I’ll be first in line.

    Share
  46. [...] the lone voice in this. Om Malik of GigaOM is another voice to join to my disbelief. He says in his blog, “While most gadget gurus (and lots of readers who follow me on Twitter) seem to be quite [...]

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  47. “Palm reported a net loss of $506.2 million for its second quarter of fiscal year 2008. ”

    Actually, you had it right the first time. That was Q2 FY2009. :)

    Om, your point about the risk of cannibalization is a valid one. But a few other points are off the mark.

    1. Getting $100 million from Elevation wasn’t a bad thing. Palm gave back $450 million in dividends to investors in 2007. It was a deliberate financial engineering move designed to give Elevation better returns. And it put Elevation in a position to take a bigger stake when Palm needed some of that cash back.

    2. Palm hasn’t moved the needle forward? Please. It eliminates most of the iPhones shortcomings – with a physical keyboard, removable battery, cut-and-paste(!!!), and an open platform. And it introduces a better user interface that makes multi-tasking much easier. It’s also smaller than the iPhone. It’s even smaller than the Centro. And the Touchstone wireless charging? Sweet.

    3. If you’ve sold PALM short, you should really disclose such information to your readers. :)

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  48. Om – certainly agree on one thing – I take all of these “presentations” and online picts/videos and first reviews with a grain of salt until I see it “live”!

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  49. @Sam Kim

    Thanks for the correction on the date.

    on the #3, i don’t own a single stock in any company no exceptions, except my own. any other disclosures are made on the site every single time. of course you should disclose that you are a holder of palm stock if you are going to ask questions :-)

    on#1, yes you do have a point. #2, i am with holding judgment. we shall see in the market place — i don’t buy into press releases and keynotes very much.

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  50. If unlocked phones would be a boon to Apple, you have to wonder, what is the big advantage to a Sprint exclusive for the Pre? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to merely make the Pre available for ANY carrier?

    Are carriers going to continue to rule the market, throttling what a customer may use? Does Sprint badly need a flashy smart phone for WiMax? Why isn’t ATT mentioned in press releases geared towards LTE?

    Share
  51. [...] Some dissenting opinions: Further Thoughts on the Palm Pre; Still Doesn’t Look Enough – Ewan Spence Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? – Om Malik [...]

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  52. [...] Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? [...]

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  53. I am an iPhone user but the Pre looks mighty attractive, mostly because it uses standard Web technology, not proprietary SDKs like everyone else (or crackpot languages like Objective-C/Cocoa), and it doesn’t have a walled garden like Apple. If it uses a JIT JavaScript engine like Webkit’s SquirrelFish (and unlike the iPhone’s sluggish JavaScript engine), you wouldn’t need to bother with native compiled languages at all. Interpreted languages like JS, Python or Ruby have massive developer productivity benefits over older 3G languages like C/C++ or Java, just see how quickly Adobe Lightroom (written in Lua) is progressing compared tp tje stagnant Photoshop (C++).

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  54. I reserve judgment until I try it, but they are definitely facing an up-hill battle. How many app stores will the market support? My gut is that html/js/css is not a good approach to dev mobile apps unless they wrapped up a bunch of cool native APIs for animation, etc. The money an interest is all iPhone right now. Blackberry and Android have a good shot. Windows mobile has some market share, but no one installs windows mobile apps.

    If I were sprint, I’d go all-out for android. open the network completely to any device: there would be some really cool stuff that would come out if they just opened it up. Think wireless credit card processors, wireless parking meters, security systems, universal remotes for your home systems, etc. A lot of the stuff you see on the iPhone, but with any device running android you would see many other innovative products out there that aren’t possible with the iPhone because you are limited to Apple’s hardware.

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  55. This is awesome news! In 2006. When it should have come out. Instead, Palm wasted time developing for Windows Mobile. Well, better late than never. Unless its already too late. Time will tell.

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  56. One other thought…. Sprint’s network in my experience is much better than AT&T’s.

    Their customer service was terrible, but I had much better coverage in the 3 areas that I frequented while on Sprint…. Bay Area, Denver, and Kansas City.

    Sprint actually worked in my basement in Denver. AT&T has been pretty bad from day one. I called to bitch about AT&T not working at all in my house (I’m 2 miles from downtown denver, not in the sticks) and they just said “our computer shows you in a good coverage area”. Their computer thinks I am in a good coverage area, but I can assure you I’m not :) I ended up having to buy a cell repeater to use it in my house.

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  57. [...] Pre, as my friend Om Malik states, has “a feature set that (sic) is the equivalent of table stakes in order to play in [...]

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  58. Palm as a software company, just became a takeover target. Because what Sony Ericsson, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Samsung, Motorola and LG and others don’t have is an OS that gives them tablestakes – they all have opted in one form or another to: 1) go at it themselves; 2) use Microsoft; 3) Google Android; or 4) run from the space entirely – which is not a strategic option longer term. Palm is now in the same conversation as Android, Microsoft Mobile, Apple and Research in Motion – the others make phones.

    See, Palm showed what it is and will always, be a user-focused operating system, even though it took an inept management team 2-3 years to realize it. Even in the Treo’s dying days – which continue every day as my friend Om astutely points out – people still like using it! Something which very few of the above can claim of their mobile experiences.

    For the full story.

    http://www.joshbaylin.com/2009/01/palm-its-the-software-stupid/

    Share
  59. I wonder if this will push the Centro’s price low enough that common Southeast Asians could actually afford it in masses…

    I recalled an article somewhere where Palm was planning a 3-tiered product segmentation strategy where palmOS powered devices are low end, Windows Mobile Push-email-enabled business gadgets for the high end, and the webOS for the middle of the road. (Was it in Ars?)

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  60. Om,
    I don’t own any PALM, though I follow the company very closely.
    And honestly, I think very few of us have really withheld our judgment. :)

    -Sam

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  61. Remember. Decca Records turned down the Beatles initially, before Capitol snapped them up.

    Why?

    “Eventually, Decca Records rejected The Beatles, saying that “guitar groups are on the way out”

    from: The Beatles. (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco:Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811826848

    So, pan on Om! Just be sure not to quit your day job!!

    hehehe

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  62. I hope Palm’s final product is stable and has developers writing for it. I do think its the first phone that makes the iPhone look old and outdated.

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  63. Hi Om,

    Longtime reader. First time commenter. I think you really hurt your credibility when you said the Palm Pre’s “feature set is no different than, say, a Nokia E71.”

    As a tech guy yourself, how can you say there is “no difference” between non-touchscreen and touchscreen? Between QVGA and double the number of pixels at HVGA ? Between the magnesium and steel housing/casing of the E71 and the (what appears to be) high-gloss plastic of Pre? Accelerometer vs none ? 3.5mm jack vs. 2.5mm jack? 10mm vs. 16.95mm thickness ? That’s 6 major differences that can be identified without ever powering up the Pre. Six user-notable differences, Om!

    I’m not saying Pre is better than sliced bread; on the contrary, E71 “wins” on at least 1 of those 6 differences. However, I do trust you agree these are tremendous differences between E71 and Pre (and we’re not even talking about enterprise features, UI / ease of use, etc. which we cannot fully evaluate and compare yet). By the way, I am a longtime and avid user of the E61i and later E71 for the past 18 months.

    I hope your the hole in your foot heels well. I will continue to be an avid reader, but will be a bit more cautious reader when you’re talking about handheld hardware.

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  64. I’m not even an iPhone user (only played with it a few times)but I do feel it now looks dated as compared to the Pre.

    From ars technica:

    As nice as the pré’s hardware is, Palm’s WebOS is where the real action is. As a dedicated iPhone user, I experienced something very strange and quite unexpected while watching Palm demo the new OS: my iPhone suddenly felt old and played out. It’s like Palm started with the iPhone, copied all the best ideas, and then made the whole package better.

    Share
  65. [...] Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? [...]

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  66. I wouldnt believe the hype on the feature argument, yes they are not blowing other devices out of the water, but until the iPhone supports background applications, copy/paste, and MMS the Apple fan boys can shush,

    @phil swenson

    The WebOS IS a web based operating system, thus all the native things you are seeing in the user experience is html/js/css including the menus, card views, animations, etc. Basically you are seeing a bunch of divs and what is considered pages to the OS/webkit in the background.

    All of the animations is powered by a homegrown js animation library. All of the native apps are written in html/js/css, not just 3rd party ones so they will most likely be providing contact, calendar, media, location, etc js hooks and callbacks for all that stuff.

    An initial write up here, its very pro Palm from a first experience, I am currently a Palm fan boy until they prove me wrong

    http://kaiyzen.com/?p=233

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  67. [...] Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? [...]

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  68. “Pre’s introduction, website, technology packaging, industrial design, UI, product naming and positioning…down to the flow of its CES presentation were pointedly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Apple-like. Of all the current iPhone competitors, Pre clearly captures the “soul” of the iPhone as much as any product not-from-Cupertino can. Whatever Pre “borrows” from the iPhone, it does so not with the brazen indifference of recent iPhone-killers, but with care and purpose.”

    However:

    “Palm is clearly late to iPhone’s party. By the time the first Pre is sold, the iPhone will likely have 30 million users in 70+ countries, 15,000 apps, a huge developer and peripherals ecosystem, perhaps a third of the market share and 40% of smartphone revenues. And that’s before the next generation iPhone device and OS are introduced.”

    I explored Pre’s chances in:

    “Strategic shortcomings of Pre in the post-iPhone era”
    http://counternotions.com/2009/01/12/pre/

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  69. [...] Wie den Aussagen anderer Quellen zu entnehmen ist (siehe Zitate oben), ist das neue Flagship Device Palm Pre gut aufgenommen worden. Auf Mobile Crunch kann man sich eine Demonstration des Pam Pre anschauen. Auch Venture Beat hat Videos veröffentlicht. Aber es gibt auch Skeptiker, wie z.B. Om Malik von GigaOM. [...]

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  70. Roland Exxo:
    “Fast Web browsing” and “efficient multitasking” just aren’t big differentiators anymore.”
    Really? Please name me another handset that multitasks. I’ll wait.

    Ok. Well I’ll assume you need more time. Phone operating systems tend to treat multitasking as a joke, as some kind of evil TSR mindset. I, for one, would rather keep my email OPEN while I’m bouncing back to a web site to get an address, then copy and paste it into my email.

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  71. I think Palm will try to get bought out before June 30th. Note that Pre Battery life has never been talked about, designing an OS is one thing, making it battery efficient and bug free is a lot harder, i find the mute on battery life disturbing, to me it looks like the CES gig was an effort at marketing Palm as a takeover target..

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  72. [...] Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture? ( GigaOM ) [...]

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  73. [...] still struggling with subscriber losses, (it plans to cut 8,000 jobs) and it’s unclear if the launch of the Palm Pre phone, the Clear WiMAX network and a competitive prepaid calling plan can save [...]

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  74. [...] about 600,000 shoppers after the Macworld announcement. I am not so optimistic about Palm’s long-terms chances, however, as outlined in this post. [...]

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  75. I have always loved my Treos. No complaints, ever. I look forward to owning a Pre someday. BUT, no way can I go with Sprint. Sprint is ok in New York City in some areas, but no good whatsoever in San Francisco and environs. have gone to Verizon which is great. Now all I have to do is wait till Verizon sells the Pre and I will be very happy.

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    1. I’ll be in NYC from 1 to 9 April but I’m from Brussels : do you think I can buy a PRE at Sprint shop and use it with my sim card in Europe? Do you know addresses for sprint shops?
      best regards (armel)

      Share
      1. The Pre will be a CDMA device, not a GSM device. You won’t be able to use a sim in it at all. If Palm introduces a GSM version for other countries, the Pre may be if use to you, but not the CDMA version from the US.

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  76. [...] Malik | Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 9:20 AM PT | 0 comments In a story outlining the challenges faced by Palm’s Pre, The New York Times reports: “David Owens, a Sprint marketing executive, [...]

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  77. The Pre looks nice, but has no chance with the iPhone’s new OS comes out this summer. All the features the iPhone didn’t have, now has!!! (ie, Cut, Copy and Paste, Send photos, contacts, audio files, and location via MMS, Read and compose email and text messages in landscape, push notification, etc.) It has over “100″ new features!!!

    Check out the link below and watch the presentation, to see for yourself all you doubters!!!

    http://www.apple.com/iphone/preview-iphone-os/

    Share
  78. [...] it is a highly anticipated device that will hopefully bring out big-spending smartphone buyers. I have been less than sanguine about Palm’s chances, mostly because it is a company running on fumes and is competing in an [...]

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  79. [...] it showed off the Pre at the Consumer Electronics Show. In the long run, one hot gadget may not be able to save Palm, but it’s unquestionably helping pump up the company’s shares in the week leading up [...]

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  80. [...] said, there is a lot of interest in Palm’s Pre. Same goes for Nokia’s N97. Will that be enough? Or will the iPhone/BlackBerry juggernaut continue to suck the oxygen out of the handset business [...]

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  81. [...] earnings. Smartphones sold to consumers fell 4 percent from a year ago, before Palm even debuted the Pre. A costly ad campaign sank gross margins to 25.6 percent from 27.9 percent a quarter earlier. And [...]

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  82. [...] earnings. Smartphones sold to consumers fell 4 percent from a year ago, before Palm even debuted the Pre. A costly ad campaign sank gross margins to 25.6 percent from 27.9 percent a quarter earlier. And [...]

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  83. [...] In the meantime, the big question is: Can the company stage a comeback? I have not been shy about my feelings as to Palm’s increasing irrelevance, antagonizing Palm fans in the process. There were four basic challenges that were facing the [...]

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  84. Is this the one with the email feature does not have much of a style?

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  85. I would be surprised if Palm survives.

    I have not seen any sales numbers on it but it sure seems to me that the smartphones with all of the hype are the iPhone and the Droid.

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  86. [...] Palm, despite the boasting, wasn’t going to win it. In a post entitled Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture?, I wrote: While most gadget gurus and lots of readers who follow me on Twitter) seem to be quite [...]

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  87. [...] Palm, despite the boasting, wasn’t going to win it. In a post entitled Can Pre Save Palm From Being Put Out to Pasture?, I wrote: While most gadget gurus and lots of readers who follow me on Twitter) seem to be quite [...]

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