A Week Later: Why Palm’s Pre Still Lags On Apps


imageWhen Palm (NSDQ: PALM) launched the Pre about a week ago, it generally won high praise. But the new device was criticized on one front: its woeful lack of third-party applications. At a time when apps are a growth engine for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and other handset makers, the Palm offered just 18 apps for the Pre.

Well, not much has changed in a week. The Pre now has only 30 apps, and of the dozen new ones, none of them stick out as something that will generate buzz for the device or become part of the pop culture. Part of the iPhone’s success comes from having applications, like the Koi Pond or iFart, which worked their way into conversations and became part of iPhone lore. The list of new Pre apps includes: Craigslist, Match.com, Intuit GoPayment, which allows business owners to charge a customer’s credit card on the go, and Evernote, a note-taking, reminder service.

Why is the Pre lagging? There are at least two reasons: Palm still has not made its developer kit widely available, and there aren’t enough consumers using the device to attract a wide swath of publishers. Admittedly, both of these reasons may be temporary, and as more handsets sell and the developer kit opens up, applications may start flooding the catalog.

More on the reasons after the jump…

On developer kit availability: Palm is still closely monitoring who gets access to its developer kit, by requiring developers to fill out an application to gain access. Even among those who apply, “not everyone will receive the Mojo SDK right away,” Palm said. Likely, Palm is being conservative because the storefront remains in beta, and it’s possible that developers will have to tweak their applications for the final version. At any rate, this seriously limits one-man operations from spontaneously building something that might help Palm make a name for itself.

On incentives: In order for the App Catalog to take off, developers must also be able to justify building for the Palm Pre over other devices that are more established. Right now, everything is bigger than the Pre from Apple’s iPhone on the high-end to Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and even Google’s Android on the low-end. While Sprint (NYSE: S) claimed to have broken sales records in the first weekend, shortages were also widely reported and analysts capped total sales between 50,000 and 200,000 devices. In contrast, Apple has an estimated 40 million users between the iPhone and iPod Touch, and T-Mobile has said it sold more than 1 million G1s. uLocate, which built the location-based “Where” application for the Pre, can demonstrate the difference in user bases. On the Pre, Where was downloaded 15,000 after the Pre’s first weekend on sale, and as of today, Pre owners have downloaded it 41,909 times. While Google’s Android has been around for longer, 15 percent of all G1 owners have downloaded Where, for a total of 150,000 times.



Last I heard Palm hadn't enabled direct billing. If that's still the case, it makes sense that developers are not investing in the ecosystem.

Tricia Duryee

You are both correct. The iPhone initially didn't have an App Store, and had zero applications available. It only allowed people to make internet sites for the Safari browser.

So, to be sure, it's not fair to say Palm has only 30 applications at launch when the iPhone had zero. But unfortunately, the Palm Pre is launching two years later when the iPhone has thousands of apps. When consumers are making a decision to buy one phone over the other, will they be fair and compare the Pre to the first iPhone? Or will they make their decisions based on what the two are offering today?

Perhaps the more important question is how much are applications driving consumer decisions? It's probably only one factor (with UI, data rates, and brand also playing a role), however, Apple has definitely shifted its advertising campaigns to highlight third-party apps — making it obvious that they at least see it as a major selling point.


"Part of the iPhone’s success comes from having applications"

iPhone had zero apps until the launch of the iPhone 3G or 1 year after the iPhone was released.

Funny how the industry gets so caught up in the Appstore hype, they forget the past. The iPhone is successful because of the brand, the UI and device design and because Safari brings a familiar web experience to a mobile device.


A week after the first iphone was released there were 0 (zero) apps.

Comments are closed.