When looking at the fourth quarter U.S. smartphone numbers from comScore, Palm stands out with the largest percentage decline. Based on the data, Palm’s market share decreased 26.4% from the prior quarter. Of course, the current quarter ought to be a different story since upgraded webOS devices found their way to the Verizon (s vz) network in late January. Couple the added availability with some webOS buy one, get one deals and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Palm’s momentum completely reverse when we look back at the first quarter of 2010. And now, there’s word that the Pre could be hitting another big carrier — combining logic with some FCC filings, PreCentral speculates that May will bring the Pre to AT&T (s t).
Obviously, adding another line of availability for the Pre and/or Pixi should help Palm (s palm), but I’m wondering — how much? AT&T’s “money” phone is Apple’s iPhone — here in the U.S. the device is exclusive to the carrier, and could be for some time yet. Some folks might switch from iPhone (s aapl) to a webOS device, but probably not many. Why? Their investment in Apple’s ecosystem is likely the top reason. Folks that purchased non-transferrable iPhone apps or iTunes video content won’t want to leave them behind. And while I’ve found a very effective alternative to iTunes in DoubleTwist, the product isn’t a household name like iTunes is.
Aside from the ecosystem investment in Apple’s world, webOS devices have to compete with so many other handsets available on AT&T’s network. That means Palm will have to continue or further ramp up marketing for its handsets. Will AT&T help out with this effort or will they let Palm go it alone and invest their own money for marketing? We should see the answer to that if and when these devices do appear AT&T’s network — while it won’t totally kill of Palm’s potential for success with AT&T, it will be very telling to see how much marketing muscle AT&T provides.
On the plus side, Palm really doesn’t have to worry too much about competing with Android (s goog) devices on AT&T. As of yet, there aren’t any to compete with and only five are expected in the first half of this year — Motorola (s mot), HTC and Dell (s dell) are all named providers. In fact, if Palm could get on AT&T sooner than later, I think it would benefit them in this regard. Why not get your device out prior to other competing handsets on a different platform?
So what’s your take? Getting the current or updated webOS devices on another huge U.S. carrier has to help Palm. But how much? Are you expecting the current Palm Plus and Pixi Plus to hit AT&T or might Palm beef up the devices even more? Will you make a switch?