Is It Time to Stick a Fork in Palm?

Palm webOS thumb

Poor Palm — the news coming out of the company just gets worse and worse. Lackluster sales of its webOS handsets and a mass exodus the departure of some key executives at the company. It’s like rats leaving a sinking ship in droves. Analysts are quick to point out what Palm has done wrong to put itself in this untenable position, but the fact remains that the way forward is anything but clear. Is it time for Palm to call it quits?

Sales of the Palm Pre and then the Pixi never set Sprint sales records. Palm then put big hopes on the updated Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, with its exclusive deal in the U.S. with Verizon. But in the quick paced smartphone space timing is everything, and Palm’s appearance on the Big Red network followed the carrier’s move into the hot Android market. The Verizon advertising campaign for the Droid Android line was massive, and the Palm phones arrived at Big Red with a whimper, not a bang.

The sales numbers for Palm get worse and worse; it’s clear the webOS platform is not saving the company as hoped. The company goes public that it is shopping for a buyer, and key executives are leaving by the shuttle bus load have left. Palm offers big bonuses to keep other executives from leaving the sinking ship, but that’s not enough either. The loss of a major distributor for Palm phones (RadioShack) proves how bad it is, and signals that it is only going to get worse. Palm is even waiving the developer’s $99 fee to submit webOS apps to the App Catalog, a move that smells of “too little too late”. There doesn’t seem to be a way forward for Palm, a sad situation for any company.

My Palm Pre is sitting forlornly on its Touchstone charger, a great phone but no longer sure when (or if) it can expect any further software updates. The Pre is a testament to how good the webOS platform really is, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to save Palm. That Touchstone charger is the single most innovative phone accessory to be released by anyone for years, yet it’s not enough either. It is a clear indicator of just how difficult the competitive smartphone market has become, when one of the best OS platforms coupled with great technology cannot turn the tide for Palm.

I have stated in the past that the only thing that can save Palm is an innovative (non-phone) product. A webOS tablet would at least break Palm out of the smartphone doldrums. Palm’s line of phones has not been enough to stave off disaster, so my thinking was that a radically different product would at least have a chance to make an impact. Now I’m not so sure, due to that timing thing. The iPad is selling like hotcakes, and as it’s the biggest competitor for a Palm webOS tablet, it’s probably too late.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How To Clean Up the Mobile OS Mess

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings


Comments have been disabled for this post