Dear Palm and Sprint: Is There Anything Else You Could Do Wrong?


Palm’s (s palm) been working hard to mastermind the Pre launch this Saturday, but I think they’re getting it all wrong. Now Sprint (s vz) has joined in. It’s reached the point where they look like a couple of companies seriously in need of some business acumen.

Early reviews of the Pre are promising, yet I wonder if the bumbling, stumbling, Three Stooges approach Palm and its partners have used from the Pre’s introduction to its launch aren’t enough to ruin it anyway. Looking back, it’s hard to think of anything Palm did right with the launch after its introduction demo at CES in January.

Here’s a brief recap of everything that seems to have gone wrong.

  • You had Palm investor Roger McNamee shooting his mouth off so badly that Palm actually had to issue a retraction of his statements. Way to control the message, guys.
  • You had rumors about there being a constrained supply of Pres. This was followed by an outright admission. It doesn’t bother me if Palm feels the need for supply manipulation, but I disagree with it.
  • There was a big deal about Best Buy selling the Pre with an instant $100 rebate instead of the mail-in rebate at Sprint stores. But then we found out they’re hardly letting Best Buy have any phones.
  • The rebate itself is only good for five weeks (until 7/11), at which time the Pre will be $300. With the constrained supplies it makes you wonder how many people will actually save $100.
  • Meanwhile, you’ve got developers who can’t get the SDK, and…
  • Verizon blabbing that they’ll have the Pre in six months, potentially killing early sales.

And now, as the straw that broke this camel’s back, you have the sideshow from Palm and Sprint about how it’s actually good if there’s no lines or crowds for the Pre.

A Palm spokeswoman, Lynn Fox, said that people who equate success with packed stores may be disappointed, because the company will take time to generate buzz with the new phone. “We’re not like Apple,” she said.

Yes, equating a packed store with success is a mistake. They’re probably just their to return your merchandise or ask about a competitor. Well, Lynn, I can vouch for the fact that Palm is definitely not like Apple (s aapl). They like their stores packed. Silly Apple.

And Mark Elliott, a spokesman for Sprint, said the company not only didn’t expect long lines for the Pre at its 1,100 stores — it didn’t want them.

BWAHAHAHA! Well of course they didn’t want lines. In fact, Sprint plans to shoo people away if even the merest hint of a line forms. Shoo! Go away, people! Nothing to see here.

“We’re actually trying to manage the exact opposite,” Mr. Elliott said.

Well, your strategy so far is right on track for that. I do have one question though: Are you insane?

“What we’re trying to do is not have people backed up waiting so customers feel rushed,” Mr. Elliott said. “We want each customer to get the experience.”

Which experience is that? The one of being lonely in the store because you don’t want any crowds, or the one of deciding to buy a Pre only to be turned away because of the constrained supply?

Success “is not about having a line out the door,” he said. “It’s about being able to treat each customer and make sure they’re happy with their decision.”

A certain company I know of believes that success is both. They can have packed stores and lines and an incredibly happy and satisfied customer base all at the same time. That sounds a lot more like success than what you’re trying to manage.

“Not like Apple,” indeed.