Ruby: Droid Beat Us to the Punch

One of today's most hotly-discussed topics in the Palm blogosphere focuses around some scintillating comments made by Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein during the Q3 2010 earnings call. In particular, Rubinstein indicated that the Pre Plus' lackluster performance on Verizon was due to unfortunate timing, inadequate point of sale training and that the Pre Plus is a far superior to Verizon's current smartphone of choice, the Motorola Droid:

We had an arrangement with Sprint that when we launched with Sprint that they would invest in marketing and carry the product and for that they would get an exclusive for a period of time. That really determined when we could do our launch at Verizon…if we could have launched at Verizon earlier, prior to Droid, that we would have gotten the attention that the Droid got and since I believe that we have a better product, I think we would have even done better.

While the debates between the relative merits of the webOS and Android platforms can be discussed ad nauseam, there's no doubt that the Droid has been a runaway hit for Verizon, as Motorola's flagship handset came out of nowhere on November 6th 2009 to bolster the beleaguered wireless pioneer. Rubinstein's commentary is quite telling, as it shows how critical substantial carrier support has become for any new entrant in the smartphone war in the United States market. It's no longer sufficient to merely have a carrier subsidize your handset and carry it in corporate retail stores; now it's got to capture the attention carrier marketing departments as well as the general media.

Verizon's major Android commitment gave the platform a major push going into the 2009 holiday season and on into 2010, while capturing the minds and wallets of many potential webOS users (myself included) who simply were unwilling or unable to wait any longer for a new Palm product on Verizon Wireless. Despite vague comments earlier in 2009 proclaiming that Verizon would eventually receive a webOS device, Palm did not formally announce the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus until January 7th 2010, over two months after the Droid launch.

Indeed, Rubinstein's most recent comments are also interesting as they shift a bit of the perceived blame for Palm's recent losses to contractual matters concerning the initial Palm Pre exclusivity period on Sprint. This is quite interesting when contrasted with last month's "Project Jumpstart" memo leak by the WSJ, as Verizon was specifically called out by Rubinstein for not doing enough to propel the WebOS rollout.

If the nearly eight month gap between the Pre launch on Sprint in 2009 and the Pre Plus launch on Verizon on January 25th was frustrating, then the wait for Verizon Wireless customers awaiting a new Palm release between the Centro July 2008 and the Pre Plus in January '10 was nearly interminable. Most of the former Palm OS users on Verizon that I spoke with gave up hope of ever seeing a Palm device on "Big Red" with your truly again among the skeptical. Counting myself, I know of at least six current Verizon customers whose contracts were up for renewal sometime between June and December 2009 that would have purchased a Pre or Pixi had it been available at that time. Instead, they either went Android, BlackBerry, jumped ship to AT&T for an iPhone or bought a secondhand Palm OS device as a replacement.

Whatever the reason (and, truth be told, there are many) for Palm's lack of initial webOS success in the aftermath of its CES '09 accolades, the company has definitely lost momentum to Android in recent months. Various Palm-related sites and discussion boards are chock-full of widespread reports of Verizon sales staff recommending Android-powered devices over Palm's Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. Despite the various strengths in Palm's favor, there's no question Palm needs to do a better job educating and informing customers of the relative strengths of webOS and its PIM and multitasking prowess. On paper, at the very least, the Droid has become of a bellwether device for non-iPhone smartphone "must-haves" in recent months. Its spec sheet offers consumers a more tantalizing array of smartphone delights, as Motorola's flagship device touts features such as a 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash and standard video recording, a 3.7" 854x480 touchscreen, microSDHC slot with bundled 16GB card, comprehensive voice dial/voice search functionality and standard Google Maps turn-by-turn navigation with no monthly surcharge.

Additional thoughts on the matter can be found from this PCWorld editorial, with an Android-centric perspective to the story provided by Androidcentral.

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Many believe this is dreck

SeldomVisitor @ 3/19/2010 3:43:22 PM # Q
There are more than a few comments asking about Sprint when Verizon is mentioned.

Many thin the Pre simply isn't a very good sale in person, a factoid that could mean no amount of advertising will help.

RE: Many believe this is dreck
hkklife @ 3/19/2010 3:51:12 PM # Q
Yes, that's basically what I was alluding to. The Droid has lots of "gee whiz, look at me!" features. Starting with its small, relatively low-res screen, the Pre definitely lacks that "wow" factor. Just because it wowed us at CES last year (when we were basically expecting Centro 2.0) doesn't mean it's going to impress the general public after nearly 3 years of iPhone mania. Coming from an older 32x320 Palm OS or WinMob device, yeah the Pre screen is relatively huge. Compared to iPhone, Droid, Storm or basically any other newer smartphone, the Pre has a low-res and/or small screen in comparison.

Also, the WebOS devices have this HUGE area of empty space on the front that is uses for the gesture area. Your average sales drone isn't going to know, care or bother explaining that. People want to see as much screen as possible on their devices these days. Barring that, they want to see cool LED-illuminated touch sensors or buttons. If you just have a big strip of black plastic, people are going to to think Palm was lazy or cheap and could've installed a bigger screen. Heck, I KNOW very well what the gesture area represents and I think it's a huge annoyance and could have been put to better use for something a larger screen!

Finally, the Pre feels good in-hand but lacks the rock-solid build quality that the Droid, iPhone, BB Bold and Nexus One have. It feels and looks cheap, especially the power button, keyboard slider, and the microUSB port cover. That's unfortunate, as the Pre is actually a more comfortable device to hold & use than any of the above devices.
Pilot 1000->Pilot 5000->PalmPilot Pro->IIIe->Vx->m505->T|T->T|T2->T|C->T|T3->T|T5->Zodiac 2->TX->Verizon Treo 700P->Verizon Treo 755p->Verizon Moto Droid

RE: Many believe this is dreck
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 4:54:55 PM # Q
>>>Also, the WebOS devices have this HUGE area of empty space on the front that is uses for the gesture area.

Clumsy sentence structure? That area is no larger than the one below the iPhone's screen. If you mean to say that the Gesture Area is a speedbump to sales, then I agree. I thought it was very clever at first, but once I saw for myself how easy it is to forget it's there -- that is, that *gestures* must be used -- it leads to problems with the on-screen UI.

See, this is why Palm should have bitten the bullet and gone with a mini-tablet. As Apple will see in a year or two, there's going to come a need for an off-screen area for "stuff." Palm would have been well ahead of the game with not only a tablet pre-iPad, but racked up patents for an off-screen area.

Sure, it would have been a very hard slog with low sales, but once the iPad was announced, suddenly tablets would have been seen as hot and Palm really could have raked in some serious dough and been seen ahead of its time (again) instead of a me-too player.

Now, I'm not sure they can pull out of this. Archos really has the non-iPad tablet market (don't mention that vaporware crap Notion Ink or the other vaporware tablets -- only Archos has delivered one -- the 5IT -- and the 7HT is a sure bet too).

RE: Many believe this is dreck
Gekko @ 3/19/2010 4:57:07 PM # Q
RattyUK on Mar 19, 11:56 AM said:

Hmmm. Creepy advertising - scared the customers away? Bad network? Blanket release of Android phones? Store monkeys couldn't demonstrate the product? Lot's of technical effort in making it sync with iTunes while not actually doing a deal with Apple? Designing a product that was a list of bullet points that the iPhone didn't have? Ran out of geek purchasers? There may be others.
Sammy the Walrus IV on Mar 19, 12:15 PM said:

oh how I love this. Everyone and their mother has been saying how webos is not bad and a great interface. blah blah barf.

people..wake up. no one is buying webos.

either all these non-buyers are just plain stupid and are missing this wonderful webos


compared to other phones, palm's offerings are just sucky and underwhelming, regardless of webos.

Its the same beat that all these people are marching to calling for someone to buy Palm. Why would you pay $4 for a stock that can very well be under a $1 in a few months time?


ilo on Mar 19, 12:28 PM said:

They tried to quickly hack together an OS that would look falsely "good" on the surface so that someone would buy them during the smartphone hype bubble (Microsoft, RIM, Nokia, Motorola, etc.) Didn't work. The OS is riddled with shortcuts and compromises that would require an enormous amount of effort to fix for the long term health of the platform. Trying to hack a connection to iTunes by impersonating an iPod, instead of building a proper sync client like everyone else, is a perfect example of this. They filled the channel with product because they new their last gasp chance was to get bought in late 2009, so they wanted to make the numbers look good then. Once you are toast (as they are in 2010) who cares? All that being said, the real problem must be a poor IP portfolio, and the perception that Apple would sue the pants off whoever owned Palm if they ever were purchased by a serious competitor.


RE: Many believe this is dreck
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 5:17:05 PM # Q
All that being said, webOS is still a viable alternative to Android.

In two years, only Google will be using Android:

As for Win7PhoneMob or wtf it's new mask is, I'm unconvinced that UI is an improvement on anything.

What's ironic is all the effort Palm has put into making development easy. Had Apple or Google done all that, there'd be cheers all round.

RE: Many believe this is dreck
Gekko @ 3/19/2010 5:17:44 PM # Q

Con -

1. tablets are a low volume niche product. any market that forms will be created, self-fulfilled, and thus dominated by the iPad. let it go.

2. the Pre/Pixi/webOS gesture area is an unnecessary, silly, unintuitive, confusing, clumsy, weak, display-reducing gimmick.

RE: Many believe this is dreck
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 6:14:12 PM # Q
>>>1. tablets are a low volume niche product. any market that forms will be created, self-fulfilled, and thus dominated by the iPad. let it go.

Wrong. Do phones other than iPhone sell? Hell yes.

Are there plenty of people who bought non-iPhones? Hell yes.

Will there be plenty of people who won't buy an iPad? Hell yes. Some of these morons will be eejits who think only "red diaper doper babies" use Apple products. I name no such imbeciles, by the way.

RE: Many believe this is dreck
hkklife @ 3/19/2010 7:11:44 PM # Q

By "huge" I primarily meant relative to the available screen space on the Pre or to the Pixi's screen & keyboard. The iPhone at least has nearly a half-inch more screen space than the Pre and maintains its hard button. The Pre, especially the button-less Pre Plus, is just so...barren under the screen. Otherwise, yeah, what Gekko said about the gesture area. It just seems SO last decade and SO unintuitive. Yes, there is and will continue to be a need for off-screen "stuff" but NOT at the expense of the very screen itself!Perhaps it's time for a reintroduction of the old Clie or BB jogwheel or some sort of pressure-sensitive area on the side or backside of the device? I've always maintained that the expanse of black plastic around the earpiece would make a good area for doing at least basic forward & back gestures.

I also agree with your sentiment about only Google using Android in 2 years. OR, at best, only Google will be using Android 4.0 (or whatever) and everyone else will be farting around with 2.x or 3.x. Google is using those droves of Android licensees now to stir up developer interest and to build market & mindshare for Android just like how Palm used to "use" the Palm OS faithful as paying beta testers for their latest FrankenGarnet device. They'll fragment the market a bit more than reel everything back in for themselves and exclude everyone else from the big party in the name of tightening their focus etc.
Pilot 1000->Pilot 5000->PalmPilot Pro->IIIe->Vx->m505->T|T->T|T2->T|C->T|T3->T|T5->Zodiac 2->TX->Verizon Treo 700P->Verizon Treo 755p->Verizon Moto Droid

RE: Many believe this is dreck
mikecane @ 3/20/2010 8:23:17 AM # Q
>>>especially the button-less Pre Plus, is just so...barren under the screen.

The buttonless Pre Plus looks plain weird!

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Shoulda Coulda Woulda

Fox Mulder @ 3/19/2010 4:27:56 PM # Q
Maybe there would have been an earlier launch with out that extra device they added to their portfoleo. Maybe when everyone was asking for a full screen TX phone their smart decision to go forth with the foleo showed their strategic forward thinking when debuting it at All Things D.

Maybe letting the Palm Desktop languish around 4.1 for so long or promising Palm OS 6 but then selling their OS and then buying it back again showed the kind of consistency Palm exemplified through their current CEO Ed notCoolagian. Oh I'm sorry he was replaced? I can't see why not he barely missed being named worst CEO. When Palm's founder cashes in his own stock that should have been the harbinger of things to come.

The model numbers are make this seem like a nickel and dime scheme. Palm 500 505 515 Zire 71 Zire 72 Treo 650 680 700 780 750 755. These are not software upgrades folks theses are brand new devices.

I think the real mistake was not making an even smaller device.with an even smaller keyboard. Palm actually made the iPad but they added a keyboard to it and called it the Foleo. I love the name as well the Pre as in


Should I keep going. I was really stymied as to how Apple would compete with Palm's 20k apps when apple had zero and said they would not support 3rd party apps. After the close of PalmGear, starting fresh with a new OS and 150k iPhone apps later it is no mystery. You send cease and desist papers to developers who support your product and abandon the developers who helped you grow and delay new developers are they saying "carrier" support was lacking. It was their game to lose and they lived up to that phrase.

RE: Shoulda Coulda Woulda
jca666us @ 3/20/2010 11:09:02 AM # M Q
Palm actually made the iPad but they added a keyboard to it and called it the Foleo.

Fox, I think you're being a bit delusional here. Foleo was a piece of junk.

RE: Shoulda Coulda Woulda
mikecane @ 3/21/2010 3:02:24 PM # Q
The Foleo was basically a TX with some GPU thrown in, all lipsticked up in a mini-notebook case. That it couldn't do YouTube made it DOA.

Now I wonder ... what if the Foleo had gone on. Where the hell would it have fit with the Pre and Pixi of today?

Now I also wonder ... could that be why the designs of both Pre and Pixi are so small? They expected people to buy -- or already have -- a frikkin *Foleo* to type emails?

Now I triply wonder ... would they have switched the OS on the Foleo to webOS?

And finally I wonder, wtf would they have called the Foleo OS? Did it ever really have a name?

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Palm: this is your survival guide

Gekko @ 3/19/2010 4:48:14 PM # Q
RE: Palm: this is your survival guide
SeldomVisitor @ 3/19/2010 5:12:12 PM # Q
I think Engadget is just naive here - they are totally forgetting the condition Palm was in and Palm's NEED to go with Sprint AND come up with something with "differentiation" to separate them from the ALREADY-present HTC et al WinMob and Android devices.

Sometimes you really DO have to do what ya gotta do, even if it is almost-guaranteed fruitless.

Furthermore, Engadget is ignoring that the REAL fact that the Pre was a total-pre-beta device at that CES show with nothing behind it (the story of why the CFO left Palm on the eve of the show is probably WAY interesting). THere was NO WAY for Palm to get it out faster.

And finally, MANY believe the whole Pre thing was a total farce from the beginning - it was DESIGNED to get Palm BOUGHT but, due to Palm-the-stock's a-MAZ-ing exuberance, the stock skyrocketed and the plan backfired on Palm and they actually had to come out with a REAL DEVICE!

RE: Palm: this is your survival guide
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 5:19:41 PM # Q
I'm not going to that Engadget link. Those are the dicks who gave Colligan "advice" about the Foleo. If Ruby listens to them, he deserves the sh*tstorm that falls on his head -- and I say that without even looking at their damned post. For all I know it's probably another tag-team set-up post like the one to Colligan. (If you couldn't see The Fix Was In with that one, remove head from ass.)
RE: Palm: this is your survival guide
Gekko @ 3/19/2010 5:25:30 PM # Q

mistakes per engadget -

1. late launch
2. sprint only
3. no SDK
4. awful advertising
5. itunes sideshow
6. pixi
7. shiit build quality
8. dated hardware

RE: Palm: this is your survival guide
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 6:15:06 PM # Q
I can't argue with that list. Tx for saving me the trip.
RE: Palm: this is your survival guide
LiveFaith @ 3/21/2010 9:30:53 PM # Q

Gekko. If journalists would write like that, the world would be a better place.
Pat Horne
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Droid is Verizon's Brand

Gekko @ 3/19/2010 4:59:28 PM # Q

hence, wouldn't this push it more?

The brand name Droid is a trademark of Lucasfilm licensed to Verizon Wireless.

RE: Droid is Verizon's Brand
Gekko @ 3/19/2010 5:02:00 PM # Q

long day - i meant to write -

why wouldn't they push it more??????

RE: Droid is Verizon's Brand
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 5:21:04 PM # Q
Droid schmoid. Google was denied the Nexus One trademark. BFD.
RE: Droid is Verizon's Brand
Gekko @ 3/19/2010 5:28:03 PM # Q

Con - WTF???

my point is that of course Verizon would push the Droid phone. it's their brand and their EXCLUSIVE flagship phone. they have a vested interest for it to succeed.

RE: Droid is Verizon's Brand
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 6:15:47 PM # Q
Then call it late on my end too for missing the frikkin point.
Reply to this comment

You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now

Gekko @ 3/19/2010 6:21:30 PM # Q

You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now

Palm is dying. They've been hemorrhaging money since late last year, and yesterday's woeful earnings announcement sealed its fate. It didn't have to be this way. But it's been coming for a long time.

And where does that leave you? If you're smart, running as far as you can in the opposite direction from Palm, knowing that once a company dies the customer support dies with it, along with any third party or internal development. Running, and lamenting the passing of the last great indie phone maker.

RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
mikecane @ 3/19/2010 6:23:18 PM # Q
I long for the articles to start saying that about Nokia too.
RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
rpa @ 3/19/2010 8:31:47 PM # Q
Palm died when they stopped supporting Garnet. The quote about positioning Palm for a sale after flooding the market with units in late 2009 is telling. It was all about the masters of the universe destroying another company with the stuff they learned as MBAs, and not about how to run a business. The irony is Palm's demise will probably become a case study in B-School. Perhaps the B-school lesson will be how to destroy a company more profitably next time....

Regarding timcane's incessant rants about Nokia's death, they still sell more than a million phones a day, every day.

RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
rpa @ 3/19/2010 8:32:48 PM # Q
sorry, mikecane's rants....
RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
e_tellurian @ 3/19/2010 9:06:30 PM # M Q
Is it time for a Palm classic? A reunion of what is and was best of Palm. A pioneer that shows those that doubt all that is good about an enterprise that brought vision to market and a great products to the world.

A Palm classic.


RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
pmjoe @ 3/20/2010 1:32:45 AM # Q
rpa wrote:
Palm died when they stopped supporting Garnet.

LOL! Palm is dying because they were still pushing Garnet 5 years after it should've been End of Life'd.
RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
rpa @ 3/20/2010 4:59:58 AM # Q
By not supporting Garnet after the WebOS release, Palm abandoned loyal customers many of whom would have moved to Pre. The blogs are filled with angry people who would never buy a Palm product again due to non-existent customer support for Garnet. Just google "Palm Centro freezing" and you will find a few of these blogs. I had this problem for a while and finally gave up on ever getting any customer support. Is this a way to build upon past success?

Of course Garnet is outdated and Palm took an eternity to bring WebOS to market but did Palm need to kill their existing customer base in the process? And couldn't WebOS have been developed to enable some reverse compatibility other than Classic so existing customers and developers could migrate easily?

RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
mikecane @ 3/20/2010 8:21:09 AM # Q
>>>Palm died when they stopped supporting Garnet.

Palm died the minute they pushed out the version that killed Hacks.

They assured their death when they dropped Classic G for that abomination G2.

And DIGAF how many phones Nokia sells per day? What *are* those phones? I'll tell you: crap low-end phones. They have ZERO mindshare for smartphones, they have crap software, they have no imagination, they can't deliver anything new in this century, and they know -- even if an eejit like you doesn't -- that they're in a death spiral.


RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
e_tellurian @ 3/20/2010 10:03:20 AM # M Q
Why attack the smartphone industry? You're all over the industry from Palm to Nokia. Have you ever brought concept to market or tried or just benefited from the industry that provides you something to comment upon.


RE: You'd Be Crazy to Buy a Palm Now
gmayhak @ 3/21/2010 1:27:14 PM # Q
>>"Of course Garnet is outdated and Palm took an eternity to bring WebOS to market but did Palm need to kill their existing customer base in the process? And couldn't WebOS have been developed to enable some reverse compatibility other than Classic so existing customers and developers could migrate easily?"

I think everyone except Palm knew this was coming, I called it 4 years ago (remember Kris?)

Q - Any final thoughts as far as ALP/GHost or the future of the Palm companies and the OS? Where do you think Tech Center Labs, along with the Palmeconomy in general, will be two years from now?

A - There is a huge Palm software development community that is going to dwindle away if they keep requiring new development tools.

Tech Center Labs

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Android SDK was available more than a year before webOS

pmjoe @ 3/20/2010 1:59:19 AM # Q
Come back to Earth Rubinstein. Palm was still fooling with the Fooleo when Android was announced, and webOS was a fantasy for over a year while Google got developers on board with their Android SDK. Developers were not going to stick around with Palm while they spun their wheels for more than 6 YEARS with ZERO significant upgrades to their dead end OS.

I've been citing Palm as an example for the last 2-3 years as an Internet company that drove themselves into the ground as they milked every last penny out of their dead horse Palm OS (Garnet) for their corporate greed.

To blame 7+ years of failure on "oops we went to Sprint while Verizon got Droid", is sheer ignorance.

RE: Android SDK was available more than a year before webOS
pmjoe @ 3/20/2010 2:05:29 AM # Q
Of course all that said, Palm betting the webOS bank on has-been Sprint (rather than Verizon) was just yet another WTF Palm moment. But this also goes back to Palm being 6 years behind in the OS game, and Verizon does not like to beta test software for companies.
RE: Android SDK was available more than a year before webOS
Gekko @ 3/20/2010 3:40:37 AM # Q

stop blaming Sprint! people forget AT&T was/is a shit network but that didn't stop the iPhone.

and it won't stop the Supersonic! in fact, the Supersonic's whole reason for living is Sprint 4G!

RE: Android SDK was available more than a year before webOS
jca666us @ 3/20/2010 5:28:24 AM # M Q
Sprint deserves blame in as much as Palm allowed them to put out their own shitty Pre commercials.

While not as bad as Palms "crazy chick" commercials, Palm really needed to have a consistent theme and message in all of their advertising.

Between "crazy chick" and "dunkin donuts in space!" the inconsistent message really hurt Palm's efforts.

Not to mention any of the other issues already spoken about.

Reply to this comment

palm pre - the last palm

xdreduardx @ 3/20/2010 2:04:07 PM # Q
Been with Palm for 11 years.
Went from Centro to Pre and what a nightmare.

1. Email crashes constantly and I need to reset the phone to an earlier version and then to the latest WebOS to get email to work and that with NO MODS to Pre.

2. Palm decided not to support their Palm OS apps. All of my data needs to be migrated.

3. I am basically using my Pre to have time to migrate my data to a Palm independent "cloud" (contacts, memos, databases) so that I can bid goodbye to the company I stayed with for so long.

Reply to this comment

Jean-Louis Gassee: Who will buy Palm?

mikecane @ 3/21/2010 11:59:38 AM # Q
Jean-Louis Gassee: Who will buy Palm?
RE: Jean-Louis Gassee: Who will buy Palm?
Gekko @ 3/21/2010 12:55:32 PM # M Q
Con - that was a pretty good piece by JLG. somewhere he along with Yankowski and Nagel and relishing in Palm's new management's debacle.

JLG outta know. wasn't he the guy who was offered many many millions of dollars ($25M+ in his pocket?) by Apple (CEO Gil Amelio?) for BeOS Inc. but he got greedy and foolishly turned them down only to be then later snubbed by new CEO Steve Jobs and ultimately bought by Palm years later for ~$1M (in his pocket)?

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