Palm’s App Catalog took another step toward maturity as the company opened an online version of the store, allowing consumers (and, just as importantly, potential users) to browse through webOS offerings on PCs in addition to their handsets. While the move was entirely expected, it is sure to raise awareness of the platform among both consumers and developers. But the real test for webOS — and for Palm as a company — will come early next year when Verizon Wireless launches the Pre.
The Pre’s momentum has dissipated since its June launch on Sprint’s network, and Palm last month had to raise roughly $313 million for working capital and general corporate purposes with a public offering of 20 million common shares of its stock. But while the company could get a boost from the Pixi — an affordable webOS handset aimed at younger users and scheduled to hit the market in time for the holidays — Verizon could play the role of Palm’s redeemer. The nation’s largest carrier operates arguably the best network around, and Verizon has consistently demonstrated its acumen at marketing smartphones.
But it’s that latest factor — marketing — that’s a concern. Verizon is already promoting the Droid with an impressive ad blitz, and it’s likely to back the upcoming Storm 2 with some serious marketing muscle as well. It’s possible the Pre could get lost in Verizon’s suddenly impressive smartphone portfolio. If Verizon chooses to invest heavily to promote the Pre, the handset could be a huge hit. If not, Palm’s days may be numbered.