Apple, Business, Companies

Palm Pre is hot stuff and getting more attention than new iPhone


Palm Pre continues to be the darling of the tech pubs for this week. Rumors and news abound. Rumors vacillate from the complete sale of all the Palm Pre units to saying another shipment is sitting on the docks. We telephoned a few California Best Buy and Radio Shack retailers to see if they had any units available. All but one said they were sold out. However, they all said new product would be on their shelves by the end of next week.

There has been a lot going on with Palm. In 2007, Jon Rubinstein, one of the key execs behind the Apple iPod was named executive chairman of Palm with the hope he would bring innovation back to Palm. Wednesday, he was named chief executive of Palm Inc. The appointment comes days after Palm and Sprint launched the $200 Pre, a rival to Apple’s iPhone.

Rubinstein replaces Ed Colligan, who is stepping down after 16 years with the company. Colligan isn’t going too far away though. He is moving to Elevation Partners, the venture capital company which owns 25 percent of Palm Inc [and is a collection of investors around Bono Vox, front man of U2].

Palm Pre - the hot phone of the moment
Palm Pre – the hot phone of the moment

The leadership changes seem to be working. Most reviewers are favorably impressed with the functionality of the new Palm Pre, especially the WebOS operating system that allows multitasking. Unlike the Apple iPhone which only allows you to play music or read something on screen, the Pre can easily handle four things at once. That brings up the major complaint from reviewers who have been accustomed to using an iPhone. They have to learn new tricks. They complain the Palm’s interface is not as intuitive – see Boston Globe’s commentary. Remember that reviews are often based upon experience with previous phones and usage patterns. A great phone for one person might not be the best option for another. Before the Palm Pre, our primary phones were Palm Treos.

Having lived with the Palm Treo 650 through the Treo 755P, this writer would welcome a phone that does more than one thing at a time. However, we won’t be switching to Sprint because their coverage and service do not match that of Verizon, the number one mobile carrier in North America. Sprint desperately needs the exclusive agreement with the Palm Pre to bolster their sagging sales. Last year, Sprint lost over six million subscribers.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said in a webcast that Verizon would be getting a Palm Pre in six months or so. Sprint Nextel’s CEO Dan Hesse responded on C’Net: "They need to check their facts. That just is not the case. Both Palm and Sprint have agreed not to discuss the length of the exclusivity deal. But I can tell you it’s not six months."

The Wall Street Journal blog says that Sprint had better sell all the Palm Pre’s they can get their hands on because January 2010 – the supposed end of their exclusive contract – is coming up soon. Other rumors say that both AT&T and Verizon will be getting smartphones based on the Palm WebOS in spring 2010.

Other companies are contributing to the functionality of the Pre. Mark/Space has released the beta version of their desktop syncing app for the Palm Pre. The Missing Sync for Palm Pre is available as a fully functional beta for a limited time, which lets users to test drive the application. The company promises a PC version is coming soon, but the beta Mac version is ready right now.

We found it rather odd that Skype has not announced a version for the Palm Pre, because Skype is rumored to be readying an IPO (independent public offering) and says mobile phones are an important growth market for them. In March, Skype launched its mobile app on the AppStore and quickly moved to the top of the charts which showed that the mobile market is looking for a version of the Internet phone service.

A Skype spokesperson sent this email to GigaOM: "We are focused on delivering the best Skype experience for mobile consumers that we can, across any cell phone or mobile operating system. If someone has a cell phone, we want them to be able to use Skype on it. That’s our vision and we’ve already delivered new mobile applications for Windows Mobile, Java-enabled cell phones, Android-powered devices and the iPhone in the first half of 2009. As things are evolving quickly in this space, we will continue to keep our eye on Palm’s Pre and WebOS platform, which seems to be getting good traction in its first weekend. But we have nothing to announce at this time."

Obviously Palm delivered on the "buzz" they created in January at CES-Las Vegas. If they can ship enough Palm Pre’s to meet the demand at Sprint, Dan Hesse will continue smiling through 2009. In 2010, Verizon and AT&T may be smiling because of Palm WebOS smartphones too.