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Summary:

Evidence supports Palm’s webOS handsets could be joining AT&T’s network in May. Surely that’s good for Palm, but how good will it be? Will iPhone users abandon Apple’s iTunes ecosystem to make the switch? And what about those expected Android phones coming to AT&T?

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When looking at the fourth quarter U.S. smartphone numbers from comScore, Palm stands out with the largest percentage decline. Based on the data, Palm’s market share decreased 26.4% from the prior quarter. Of course, the current quarter ought to be a different story since upgraded webOS devices found their way to the Verizon network in late January. Couple the added availability with some webOS buy one, get one deals and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Palm’s momentum completely reverse when we look back at the first quarter of 2010. And now, there’s word that the Pre could be hitting another big carrier — combining logic with some FCC filings, PreCentral speculates that May will bring the Pre to AT&T.

Obviously, adding another line of availability for the Pre and/or Pixi should help Palm, but I’m wondering — how much? AT&T’s “money” phone is Apple’s iPhone — here in the U.S. the device is exclusive to the carrier, and could be for some time yet. Some folks might switch from iPhone to a webOS device, but probably not many. Why? Their investment in Apple’s ecosystem is likely the top reason. Folks that purchased non-transferrable iPhone apps or iTunes video content won’t want to leave them behind. And while I’ve found a very effective alternative to iTunes in DoubleTwist, the product isn’t a household name like iTunes is.

Aside from the ecosystem investment in Apple’s world, webOS devices have to compete with so many other handsets available on AT&T’s network. That means Palm will have to continue or further ramp up marketing for its handsets. Will AT&T help out with this effort or will they let Palm go it alone and invest their own money for marketing? We should see the answer to that if and when these devices do appear AT&T’s network — while it won’t totally kill of Palm’s potential for success with AT&T, it will be very telling to see how much marketing muscle AT&T provides.

On the plus side, Palm really doesn’t have to worry too much about competing with Android devices on AT&T. As of yet, there aren’t any to compete with and only five are expected in the first half of this year — Motorola, HTC and Dell are all named providers. In fact, if Palm could get on AT&T sooner than later, I think it would benefit them in this regard. Why not get your device out prior to other competing handsets on a different platform?

So what’s your take? Getting the current or updated webOS devices on another huge U.S. carrier has to help Palm. But how much? Are you expecting the current Palm Plus and Pixi Plus to hit AT&T or might Palm beef up the devices even more? Will you make a switch?

  1. The iPhone is a tough nut to break obviously, but it cant hurt Palm to have another carrier selling its products. I think the target market for Palm are not as much the switchers but the people getting a smartphone for the first time. However Palm has to differentiate itself somehow and that will be tough for them to do with all the free press Apple gets for their products.

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  2. I thought that getting Palm webOS devices on Verizon would result in a major adoption of webOS, but after using the Pre Plus for a week I see no compelling reason to buy one when there are better Android devices (DROID and DROID Eris currently) on Verizon and other choices on other carriers that are more compelling. While webOS is slick, the hardware is just average, there are few compelling apps, the display is too small and fonts are a bit fuzzy, and I do not think webOS is enough to save Palm.

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    1. My sentiments exactly.

      WebOS is nice, but Palm really needs to get that hardware in line with the OS. If you expect to be considered a premium brand, you need to pair your premium OS with non-flimsy hardware.

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      1. @Nate

        I disagree with Matthew Millers comment:

        ” I see no compelling reason to buy one (palm Pre Plus) when there are better Android devices (DROID and DROID Eris currently) on Verizon and other choices on other carriers that are more compelling.”

        I should have been more specific, sorry about that.

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    2. I respectively disagree. I have the Hero now (which is exactly like the droid ERIS) and I’m not satisfied with the experience. Most importantly, Android is horrible at multitasking compared to Palm. The appkillers are a joke compared to card system on Palm.

      Android has the upper hand though. Android phones seem to be better built, android has a bigger catologue of applications, and as of right now, Android has better processors in their phones then Palm.

      I find palm to be a better fit because of multitasking, user experience, and being able to “Hack” or “Tweak” the phone easily with PreWare. Preware is much simpler than hacking the Iphone or Android.

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      1. What do you disagree with? Your opinion doesn’t seem to be that far from Matt’s.

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    3. you’ve been beating that same drum for awhile Matt, seemingly going out of your way to knock Palm. besides webOS being “pretty” everything i have ever seen you say about it has been negative.

      tell me, where was Android in its 1st 6months compared to the 2yr old iPhone? truth is, Android was a very slow burn, nobody even gave it a 2nd look until 2.0 over a year later.

      to be “in the industry” you cant look pass your own bias for wanting Android to succeed to give any newcomers a fair chance. i’m not saying your not credible, but it could potentially hurt your reputation in the long run.

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      1. I am a long time fan of Palm (started using them in 1997) and want them to succeed in the mobile space. That said, I am not pleased with the current Palm hardware and haven’t been pleased with many pieces of Palm branded hardware over the years. We all cannot like everything we try and I have no vested interest in Android succeeding over others or anything. I have liked Windows Mobile for years too, but that love is quickly fading as well and Android, Nokia Maemo, and the iPhone are the most pleasing to me personally.

        I am willing to give newcomers a chance and actually bought the Pre at launch to be returned three weeks later when the display started wobbling around and I discovered the device didn’t have what I needed. I am testing the Pre Plus now and just about every time I have tried the WiFi hotspot feature the device has frozen up and needed to be reset. This isn’t bias, but actual, factual experiences and this saddens me a bit since I have a special place in my heart for Palm.

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  3. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Pre ever since it came out — it seems to me that Palm really nailed the mobile experience with webOS. I’ve just been reluctant to jump ship to Sprint, so if AT&T can pick up some webOS devices I’m sure I’ll buy one.

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  4. Kevin,
    did you follow the news at all about Sprint’s Quarterly Earnings report this week? Zero mention of the Palm Pre and Pixi, except a note that the Pixi was added to their list of phones. Isn’t that a little weird? No news of activations? No news of the impact on subscribers? No news of the impact of the Pre and Pixi being available on Verizon?

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    1. I didn’t listen in to the call, but that’s not a promising sign in my opinion. All I can do is speculate, but that tells me that Palm’s devices aren’t enough of a priority or impact for Sprint to mention.

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    2. most defectors are Nextel users, no matter how many new customers Sprint signs up they cant keep up. just the fact Sprint has managed to slow their rate by 70% is quite impressive.

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      1. Huh…never thought about the Nextel angle of Sprint’s subscriber bleed. Wonder if the percentages are significant.

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  5. Palm’s release through AT&T will open up more doors compared to Verizon’s recent release. AT&T and Verizon both have about twice as many subscribers compared to Sprint while more people with AT&T familiar with the iPhone will enjoy some of the same familiar functions with the Palm Pre including Multitouch screen, Synergy Syncing, and Multitasking. Of course multitasking with the Palm Pre will be the number one reason many AT&T iPhone users will be curious to swap their iPhones for the Palm Pre, in addition to being lower priced.

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  6. Anyone who refers to Droid as DROID is a probably a plant. Only a plant would bother with the capitalization. So that guy above who said he’s leaving the Palm Pre Plus for a “DROID” is a fake poster trying to influence people negatively against Palm.

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    1. Hilarious…

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  7. Disclaimer: I am a jaded WinMo user gone webOS, gone Android, gone WinMo and finally back to webOS user :)

    Will AT&T help/hurt Palm? Neither, Palm’s biggest problem is their inability to make webOS the next big deal on any network. It’s a great platform but nobody gets that buzz. Palm should have never hoped that launching on network X, Y or Z would create that buzz for them. Until that’s solved webOS will not fully succeed any any network. Why?

    Palm has failed to realize that the roles of networks and hardware/OS producers are reversing. The hardware is starting to bring the subscribers to the networks not vice-versa. Apple plowed this road and proved that carrier is secondary if the consumer sees the hardware/OS as the next big deal. Palm made a backhanded attempt with some pathetically bad TV ads but really chose business as usual trying to be the power behind the network. FAIL. Google gets it. They built Android into the next big deal via all mediums of communication. I sure as hell bought into it. Google could have launched on Virgin Mobile and still been the next big deal.

    As an aside…I find no sin in Sprint not trumpeting webOS in their earnings call. They did not trumpet their Android phones either. Why would they when what is best for Sprint is to remain neutral on webOS and Android. Better yet that Google is a doing a big chunk of the Android marketing for them…in every medium…are you listening Palm?

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  8. WebOS is much more well polished than Android at the moment and Palm had proved to live up to their promise of delivering updates. I think if Palm refresh their hardware specs to complete with Nexus One, the buzz would automatically come. No need for those mommy campaign. Plesae stop them.

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  9. Some thoughts:
    1. The screens are too small. The days when these smmall screens were the norm are gone. Having two devices with small screens is not helping. Just take a look at the competition and the new HTC HD2. Everyone already has a tiny device with a tiny screen.
    2. Developers, developers, developers… make it simple. You don’t have the time to d*ck around… why would someone develop for your platform… as so much time would have to be invested on the developers part and considering a low penetration point …are you kidding me?
    3. Fire your marketing team or double their pay so they spark interest in the product.
    4. You sure taking your sweet time getting to GSM and at this point who cares… everyone is there already, now you have to fight through the crowd. Unless the screens get bigger this means nothing.
    5. Get Sony back on board!!!
    6. Make PalmPad

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    1. Sony onboard again? Yeah, the main reason I suck with the Palm OS for so many years was because of Sony CLIEs. The Palm V was a solid device, but Sony beat Palm in quality after that. I still have my UX-50 and it is a beauty. Sony Ericsson devices are too expensive for people today as they are not willing to spend as much as we were back in the day.

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