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Will the Pre and its shiny new webOS be enough to save Palm?

Zach Epstein
January 8th, 2009 at 4:06 PM

There you have it folks, the mystery Palm phone and OS are no longer a mystery and the world has now received its first glimpse at Palm’s hopeful savior. First impressions mean everything and for the time being it’s safe to say we were supremely wowed. Seriously, did you ever imagine you’d see the day when Palm would release a handset and OS combo so perfectly evolutionary and well designed? Once the initial high wears off however, we’re all brought back down to reality – a reality where Palm is a company on the verge of falling apart and the Pre represents what is likely the first in a series of handsets that will make or break it, literally. Is this sharp little piece of kit up to the task?

In another world, the Pre might very well devastate competitive offerings. Without having held the device of course, the hardware looks gorgeous and the new OS looks like it could just be the closest thing to a masterpiece we’ll see in 2009. What’s more, any web developer with a few 101 classes under his/her belt will be able to develop apps for Palm’s new OS with little or nothing new to be learned. The biggest wild card now however, might just be Sprint. By tying itself to a struggling carrier, Palm placed all of its eggs into a very, very fragile basket. Sure, there are pros and cons; an obvious pro is that the Pre will become a huge tool for Sprint. Sprint will invest tons of time, money and other resources into launching and marketing the Pre because, well, what else does it have going on? A WiMAX launch in Podunk, Iowa (calm down, that was a joke)? The Pre will be Sprint’s golden boy and it will get all of the love and attention Palm could ever imagine. Ok, so what’s the problem?

The major con, which is equally as obvious as the benefits mentioned above, is that Sprint is hemorrhaging subscribers and struggling more than any other US carrier to stay afloat. It is losing money like a Lions fan who can’t stop betting on the home team and short of recent layoffs, it is showing no signs of turning the ship around. By partnering with Sprint on this launch, Palm has basically created a relationship where each major player is standing on shaky ground. Does Sprint have a good network? Of course it does – blazing data speeds are nothing new to Sprint subscribers. There are tons of other factors however, such as customer service woes, spotty coverage and a Vista-like stigma that will prevent many from even considering the Pre when it is launched later this year. No, the Pre will certainly not result in a tremendous surge of business funneling through from competing carriers as the iPhone did for AT&T. Last time we checked, Palm fans are hardly as cult-like and fanatical as Apple fans and Joe the Plumber simply doesn’t care that much – that’s why he carries a RAZR.

We want the Pre to be a success, there’s no question. In fact, you can be sure you’ll find a few of these bad boys roaming the halls of BGR HQ. We also want Sprint to figure out how to plug all of the cracks in its dam. The issue here is that there may just be too many hurdles blocking Palm’s path to success and in its current state, Palm is most definitely no Dayron Robles. We can only hope that Palm managed to ink a good deal with Sprint that will allow them to bring its new handset to other carriers before it’s too late and upcoming competitive handsets make Joe the Plumber forget all about the Pre.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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