Blog Post

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.

21 Responses to “Dear Palm and Sprint: Is There Anything Else You Could Do Wrong?”

  1. SeanBlader

    Can Tom be any more hypocritical in his after thread comments? “I’m not bashing the Pre.” No Tom, you’re bashing Palm, which of course if someone came in and bashed Apple, would there be any different reaction.

    But anyway, thank you Tom, for continuing to alienate Apple non-fanatics, in the end with commentary this biased, you end up hurting your cause and credibility more than you do Palm’s.

  2. “it is the management that manage the engineers”

    Sure, but that management is Jon Rubenstein, who headed the engineering team. They otherwise left him alone; from the same Daring Fireball article quoted above:

    “They hired Jon Rubinstein and gave him control over building a new hardware and software engineering division.”

    All of engineering is top notch, the other groups seem several steps (more like a whole flight) down. It’s hard to believe the same group(s) that made the mistakes I pointed out could have been involved much with the team that actually designed and produced the Pre. In my view the differences between engineering and the rest of Palm are so radical as to preclude that possibility.

  3. Chris

    You may not be Pre bashing, but you are bashing. Look at it this way, Palm and Sprint have engineered this launch to ensure that those who will really benefit from the Pre are able to get it at launch. By not overadvertising they have pretty much ruled out the possibility of wasting time and phones which may have been returned if sold to someone who was buying it because it looks cool, and not because they will benefit from ownership. I’m sure there will be a large advertising push, but not until inventory levels will allow them to be sold to the general population.

  4. Remember Tom, it is the management that manage te engineers, or are you claiming the engineers somehow did a wonderful job despite the management? If so proof? Further: it is the marketing guys that are responsible for the current hype of the phone. They seem to have done everything right so far, the real question is: will the phone and its ecosystem live up to the promise.

  5. All,

    I’m not sure why everyone is so riled by this post.

    First, this post does NOT bash the Pre. Not at all. In fact, it states that the reviews are promising, and links to an excellent compendium of those reviews. Right off the bat, the defenders of the Pre are preaching to the choir; I think the Pre itself is cool.

    Second, this post DOES ridicule (and mock) Palm’s management in terms of the Pre’s ramp up to launch. I bullet-pointed numerous examples that I think no rational individual would consider “smart” PR moves. The Palm sales/marketing/management teams have been ridiculous. Honestly, if you think Sprint claiming that they do not want lines, and in fact are trying to avoid them, is smart business, that’s fine. But I wouldn’t want anyone with that attitude selling MY product. I consider that something to be mocked.

    Third, just yesterday an item came up that I could have included as yet another bullet point for ridiculous Pre marketing moves. This one comes from jkOnTeRun, which maybe those here won’t be so quick to bash since it doesn’t have ‘Apple’ in the blog name:

    “Yep, that’s it. It’s time for Palm and Sprint to fire the PR firm they are using for the Pre launch.”

    So you see even jkOnTheRun has identified an example of Palm stupidity in managing this rollout.

    Fourth, The Jon Gruber quote above was primarily about Rubenstein’s engineering team, and what they’ve accomplished in terms of a hardware/OS platform in only two years. He’s running WebOS in emulation on his Mac and is impressed. He hasn’t used the hardware yet, but tends to trust the positive reviews (as I do). In short, Jon’s post is primarily about Palm’s engineering team, and he says they’ve done a great job. I agree with that 100%, it’s quite impressive. But that’s NOT what my article was about.

    Fifth, to help drive the point home between what this article intended, as opposed to those thinking I’m Pre-bashing, I said this in my comments above:

    “The stark contrast here between Palm engineers, which appear to have done an excellent job, and Palm’s sales, marketing and management teams is amazing. The engineers may just have pulled off an amazing feat, but the rest of Palm is bumbling around. Let’s hope the former can overcome the latter.”

    Finally, I have to ask: Are those here really unable to separate the device from the launch? The engineering from the sales/marketing? The technical from the PR? If you think the guys at Palm outside of engineering have done a great job on the Pre, so be it. Let’s just say I disagree, and provided numerous examples of why.

  6. Shreekar

    Dear TAB writers,

    1) i know this is “THEappleBLOG” … but that does not mean that you guys have to bash every Apple competitor. You guys some times sound like those “PC” fanatics.

    2) PALM’s trying to stage a comeback. give them credit for that. their product seems different and cool (unlike Microsoft products) . try and let them stand properly on their feet and then APPLE will have a good competitor. REMEMBER, ONLY A GOOD COMPETITION WILL BRING THE BEST OUT OF APPLE.

    3) stop comparing APPLE and PALM . you are insulting Apple’s reputation by this comparison

    Lastly , i too am a Mac n Apple lover . But i would go out an try a radical phone like Pre , just for the kicks in it. I wish you guys also would open up your mind and welcome a healthy competition. don’t stoop yourselves to a level where you guys would be called narrow-minded Fanatics.

  7. John Gruber today:

    “it’s quite possible that they have done everything right since then.”

    Tom Reestman today:

    “it’s hard to think of anything Palm did right”

    Mmmm, artificial drama.

  8. Why do Apple-people feel the need to be so angry and venomous about this? This post actually makes me want to head over to Best Buy. And if I go now, I’ll probably buy it. Hmmm… Maybe playing hard-to-get and making people feel like they won’t have to wait in line kind of works. I bet that shortened rebate period will grow, too… Duh.

  9. Chris

    If you’re going to publish an article and then comment on it as well, maybe you should do enough research to know how to spell the company’s presidents name correctly. Dan Hesse. So how exactly are we supposed to take you seriously, Mr. Apple Fanboy?

  10. Andrew

    Friends. I am a huge Apple fanboy, but really. This blog is absurdly biased. It’s a little bit tiresome, to be honest.

    I am buying a Pre tomorrow for sure. I love Apple, but the iPhone’s price plans and lack of keyboard made it a bad fit for me.

    Apple needs good competition like the Pre to keep it on its toes and innovating.

  11. “1. Apple constrained its own supply of iPhone’s”
    They sold 1M phones in 74 days. Their shortage was REAL, not contrived.

    “2. It took almost a year for an iPhone SDK released to the public”
    Yes, but not a year since it was announced. Palm’s been sitting on the SDK since their announcement; the Pre is here, where’s the SDK?.

    “3. Dan Hess (Pres. of Sprint) admitted Verizon is wrong about only 6 months”
    Dan Hess is doing damage control. Verizon shout their mouth off and Mr. Hess is trying to put the cat back in the bad. Too late.

    The stark contrast here between Palm engineers, which appear to have done an excellent job, and Palm’s sales, marketing and management teams is amazing. The engineers may just have pulled off an amazing feat, but the rest of Palm is bumbling around. Let’s hope the former can overcome the latter.

  12. applh8r

    1. Apple constrained its own supply of iPhone’s
    2. It took almost a year for an iPhone SDK released to the public
    3. Dan Hess (Pres. of Sprint) admitted Verizon is wrong about only 6 months

  13. kshusker

    The thing that I find amazing about the Pre is that Palm has had two full years since the iPhone came out, and has hired a buttload of former Apple folks to work on it, and still, the Pre is, at best “as good as” the CURRENT iPhone, which will be end-of-lifed in a week!