Palm's Tough Act to Follow
A new editorial by the New York Times has appeared regarding uncertain fate facing Palm and their new WebOS initiative. Entitled "For Palm, Some Tough Acts to Follow", this piece in the NYT's Digital Domain column is a bit heavy on the skepticism but nonetheless a compelling read.
The piece's author, Silicon Valley-based Randall Stross, minces no words in referencing Palm's utter inability to see the challenge posed by Apple and their iPhone juggernaut. Stross pulls no punches when describing the current state of Palm's current lineup and sales: Palm's legacy devices are described as "aging" and Palm's sales "…have collapsed". He then goes on to quote a Gartner analyst as describing the upcoming Pre as a being "…a bet-the-company product".
While no details are revealed within the piece, one interesting bit was a comment made in the article where an unnamed Palm company spokeswoman says that WebOS (not the Pre hardware) is the release that will save the company. As before, vague references are made to future Palm products running WebOS but no further details are given.
The NYT piece does a solid job of examining pivotal events both recent (Apple's preview of iPhone OS 3.0) ad past (Palm's market leadership in the PDA field in the mid-to-late 1990s). The increasing corporate-friendliness of Apple's iPhone along with the continued consumer-friendliness of RIM's BlackBerry line are correctly brought into view, suggesting that the "fat middle of the market" Palm is targeting for the Pre will remain so lucrative.
The article doesn't make any major technical missteps either, correctly pointing out that the Pre offers true multitasking as a clear advantage over the iPhone but only with the omnipresent threat of increased drain on the Pre's 1150mAh battery.
Finally, and most interestingly, the article discusses the state of Sprint, Palm's exclusive carrier of choice for the Pre in the United States for the forseeable future. Regardless of reality, Sprint has been losing money and subscribers in record numbers. Indeed, the NYT piece closely aligns the fortunes of Sprint and Palm in regaining both users and consumer confidence from their rivals.
In an ironic twist, Stross references Ed Colligan's infamous "PC guys are not going to just knock this out" quote from 2006 prior to the 2007 release of the iPhone. While well-known to the PIC faithful, this guffaw has not received much attention in the mainstream press and serves as a reminder to the NYC readership just how out of touch Palm's management has been over the past decade.