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Another $100 Million for Palm From Bono & Pals

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palmhqIt must be Christmas, as the guys at Elevation Partners are feeling generous enough to invest another $100 million into beleaguered smartphone maker Palm (s PALM), which has been slip-sliding away for a very long time. Elevation Partners, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based private equity firm headed by Roger McNamee, previously invested $325 million in Palm (for about 25 percent of the company) and brought in new management — many of them former Apple (s aapl) executives — to save what was once an iconic brand and chief instigator of the smartphone revolution.

From the outside, none of those attempts seem to be working. Last week, the company reported a net loss of $506.2 million for its second quarter of fiscal 2009. Sales sank to $171 million and its shipments decreased 13 percent. In American Football terms, they have to feel like the Arizona Cardinals at the end of last night’s 47-7 drubbing by the New England Patriots. All this negativity was masked by the euphoria around the upcoming operating system, Nova, which is going to be released at CES this January. There are more handsets on the way and they are hoping to go after the “fat middle” of the smartphone market.

There are some things Palm can bank on: It has a big user base — between 7 and 8 million people are using Treos and are actually pretty thrilled with the aging devices; they can provide a good base on which to grow the company. In addition, there are a large number of application developers who continue to support the platform.

Management’s remarks encouraged the markets, which bid up the stock on Friday. No one seemed to notice that it’s almost a year late, and that we have a global meltdown with handset (including smartphone) sales sinking faster than a brick in water. Palm, like most vendors, is at the mercy of the carriers, which will ultimately decide the devices they want to push to the end users.

Given how closely AT&T (s T) is associated with Apple (neither can live without theother) and T-Mobile’s partnership with HTC, Palm has its work cut out for it. There is already talk of the new Google Phones, and I’m pretty sure Apple isn’t going to sit still and wait for Palm to stage a comeback.

My friend Pip Coburn often reminds me of Warren Buffett’s now famous adage: Turnarounds seldom turn.


Can Palm Be Saved?
( surveys) 


Terms of the deal

  1. Elevation will acquire newly issued Series C preferred stock that is convertible into Palm common stock at a price of $3.25 per share, a 31 percent premium to the closing price of Palm common stock on Dec. 19, 2008. The Series C preferred stock carries a 0 percent dividend rate.
  2. Elevation will also receive warrants to acquire 7 million shares of Palm common stock at the same price.
  3. Prior to March 31, 2009, Palm may elect to cause Elevation to sell up to $49 million of this new investment to other investors on the same or better terms than on which Elevation invested.

From the archives:

Palm’s last stand, with a bit of Elevation.

43 Responses to “Another $100 Million for Palm From Bono & Pals”

  1. PALM needs an Android to lift it up from the pits.

    I still like my PALM OS though and all the useful applications that are availble for it.

    PALM invented the wheel and then took the long nap behind it.

    WAKE UP….

  2. Let’s be honest guys, Palm is toasted.

    Treos are WinMo phones, not that any other company can come up with a similar or even better device.

    They never released the Linux-based PalmOS, their UI has been the same since 2003, compared to the iphone, palm’s products are obsolete, the centro is a zire with phone capabilities, thats it.

    With the (almost) $500M this VC has poured into palm they could have funded an innovative startup with new ideas for a change….

  3. Teve Torbes

    I mean, who exactly is Palm’s customer base? Cutting edge consumers? No, that’s iPhone and Android territory now. Business users? No, that’s Microsoft and RIMs territory. Even complacent, average consumers made the WinMo6 based Blackjack II the best selling phone for 2008. To convince anyone to consider them again, Nova not only has to be as good as iPhone and Android, it has to be compellingly better. I don’t see Apple or Google resting on their laurels anytime soon. Even as an acquisition target they are unattractive, to me the Palm brand name has about as much cache as Commodore or Amiga, nothing more than distant nostalgia.

  4. Teve Torbes

    I don’t think the Palm name says “I am productive.” per se, I think it says “I don’t know that there are better options out there” or “I’m set in my ways, I don’t like changing things.”

  5. Palm has an opportunity here :

    1) The iPhone killers are not here inspite of the os being out for 18 months. Only iPhone like os is the google android, But that does have its own issues – It does not have exchange sync to begin with – The only GPhoneout there is a crappy looking device !
    2) Existing OS’s are having a tough time becoming touch(y) – The BB Storm by some accounts is a dud. The Nokia touch device is far out and costs as much as a kidney transplant. Palm does have a sliver of opportunity to create a great OS.
    3) The ‘traditional’ mobile phone companies Samsung and LG seem to have settled on Windows Mobile as their smart phone os of choice – It is a shitty OS and the copied badly from iPhone version (WinMo7) is delayed by another year !l
    4) The iPhone 3g inspite of being revolutionary in plenty of ways has had plenty of issues. A browser which crashes every 5 minutes and incredibly bad battery life to touch on two. (Note And yet I would not give up my iPhone any day )

    Basically as the commentor noted above, Palm seems to have some great talent ….And if Nova does not turn out to be a dud. It will be great acquisition target for somebody like Samsung or Nokia…

    The financial crisis makes things hard for palm, But if you are a carrier like Sprint, Verizon or Tmobile. You need a phone to rein in the mass exodus to ATT. All I am saying is give palm a chance !

  6. Wannaknow More

    > …Elevation will acquire newly issued Series C preferred stock that is convertible into Palm
    > common stock at a price of $3.25 per share…

    How MANY preferred shares did Elevation get, though?

    A rather critical number that has yet to be revealed.

  7. Currently, in the iPhone-class OS space, there’s only Apple and Google Android. Both have new OSes. Everybody else has really old stuff. Palm’s new OS is a post-iPhone OS (like Android), so they have an opportunity to be the 3rd player in that space. I have a few friends who were recently hired there – some of the smartest guys around. I’m expecting something great.

  8. I don’t understand Elevation Partner’s rationale here. Palm is clearly the Oldsmobile of smart-phone technology and has lost to Apple, Android, Samsung, Microsoft and others. Maybe there are some baby boomers who are using the Palm platform and aren’t capable of switching to something better, but I don’t see anyone using it anymore. I used it 8-9 years ago (has it been that long?) when it came out on the Samsung i-500? But then the typical Silicon Valley leader complacency took over and their platform aged faster than gorganzola left out on a hot day. The terms that EP got are crap. They could’ve waited longer and watched Palm slip into BK and picked up the entire company for much less. I mean it’s not like you have to worry about “talent” leaving the company, right? A. Define talent. B. Where they gonna go?