Palm Pre – 5 Reasons to Succeed or Fail

You have to love the differing viewpoints out there.

PC World — 5 Reasons the Palm Pre Won’t Prevail
ZDNet — Palm Pre: 5 Reasons to Expect a Homerun

Let me list them then discuss.

5 to Fail

  1. Palm is, effectively, a start-up. Forget the heritage, extract the name, and you have the Palm of today. While it has assembled a hugely talented team, startups can screw-up. Not a predication, but if the Pre isn’t close to perfect the company could face problems, especially if a hardware recall were necessary.
  2. The ability to run multiple applications at the same time will, over time, be important. But, it’s a feature most other smartphones, except the iPhone, already possess. By the time multitasking becomes a must-have feature for the masses, Apple will have it.
  3. Unlike the Palm of yesteryear, today’s Palm doesn’t have lots of experience with developers. A huge applications and music store is a big driver of the iPhone’s success. It may be a while before Palm has this and a long time before it surpasses Apple.
  4. In an odd way, the Pre’s keyboard could be its undoing. As much as I didn’t like Apple’s touchpad when my first iPhone arrived, I have come to appreciate the simplicity of a device that doesn’t require me to open it or pull something out to make it work. And, if people want a keyboard, they already have a BlackBerry.
  5. Palm doesn’t currently have the financing to effectively compete with larger companies. That could be an issue. Suppose, Palm can sell all the Pre’s it can make, but can’t make enough to fill demand or, worse, convince developers to build Pre applications?

Counter Points

  1. Palm is not a startup, but it is similar.  Their “Idea” is a startup, not phones.  Apple LEAPING to the 1st iPhone was more of a startup than Palm LEAPING to a good idea.
  2. The problem with Old-Palm was the lack of innovation.  They made 1 big innovation several years ago and never improved on it.  It took them years just to get rid of the stubby antenna.  A new Palm that can move, change and please the masses has been in the works for a couple years.  In June, they will finally pull the trigger on their attempt.  iPhone’s don’t multi-task because their apps are “Fat”.  Pre apps are more web-centric so are “thin”.  Fat apps can’t multi-task because it kills the phone’s battery.  Thin apps don’t have that limitation.
  3. This actually isn’t a counterpoint.  What Palm needs to do is open their developer network to EVERYBODY.  They also need to let people decide what apps are good, don’t limit them because of PR reasons.  If Palm takes a “I don’t agree with what you program, but will defend your right to program it” attitude, they will have a small foot up on Apple.  Of course, they need to have a good store and allow programmers to sell their software for $1.
  4. Good or Bad, keeping a keyboard is a good idea.  Blackberry users and ESPECIALLY old Palm users.  I know I would have gotten rid of my Palm Treo 755p (and paid $200 to do so) if the Palm Pre wasn’t coming out.  The only reason I’m still with Sprint is because I want the Pre.
  5. Meeting demand, or coming just under demand, is good for Palm.  Coming in under demand may create more buzz, just like Nintendo does with it’s Wii.  However, if it takes a person more than a month to get a Pre, they could lose some customers here.  Palm’s financing probably won’t be a problem after they sell out the first week.


5 Reasons to Succeed

  1. Palm knows how to build an ecosystem
    With all of the momentum that is building around the iPhone as an application platform, Palm has a lot of ground to make up (and, for that matter, so do BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian). The thing Palm has going for it is that it knows how to build an ecosystem around its products. It did it before with the original Palm Pilot. In fact, before the runaway growth of the iPhone App Store, the Palm OS still had arguably the widest collection of third party applications for any smartphone. Most of those apps were a legacy from the Palm Pilot, but many of them were still among the best you could find for a smartphone. Palm’s new webOS will even include an emulator that will run classic Palm OS apps. But, we should also expect lots of flashy, new webOS applications because the webOS platform is friendly to programmers, and working with third-party developers is baked into Palm’s DNA.
  2. The carriers want an iPhone competitor
    Sprint has a deal with Palm to be the exclusive U.S. carrier for the Pre through the end of 2009. Verizon has already announced that it plans to start carrying the Pre at the beginning of 2010 and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that he wants the Pre on AT&T. So, within a year, the Pre will likely be available on all of the top three U.S. carriers, plus a GSM version of the smartphone will likely be spreading across the globe by then. Many of these carriers covet the Palm Pre because the iPhone, with its exclusive carrier deals in various countries, has become a magnet drawing customers away from current carriers to the iPhone’s carrier (AT&T in the U.S.). Since the Pre looks like that first smartphone that can stand toe-to-toe with the iPhone technologically, it’s very likely that many of the non-iPhone carriers that offer the Pre will market it with heavy promotions that will drive sales.
  3. The webOS will be a strong development platform
    Applications for Palm’s new webOS are built with HTML, Javascript, and CSS, which are the standard languages for today’s Web developers. Comparatively, iPhone apps are built in Objective C and Android apps are built with Java. That gives iPhone and Android a few more powerful tools to work with, but it also means that webOS will natively be more Web-savvy and will be faster and easier for developing apps. The challenge is that Palm has so far limited access to the Palm Mojo software development kit (SDK) to a select group of partners. If Palm is going to compete with the iPhone and its application juggernaut it’s going to have to open up its new SDK to the wider world as soon as possible.
  4. Touchscreen + Qwerty
    Qwerty devices such as the BlackBerry Curve, the Nokia E71, and Samsung Blackjack are all excellent email and data entry devices, but they are not very useful for Web browsing or reading a lot of text. Conversely, full touchscreen devices such as the iPhone, the Google G1, and the BlackBerry Storm are all excellent for Web browsing and reading text, but their keyboards make them less useful for typing emails and other kinds of data entry. So the ultimate device should combine a touchscreen and a qwerty keyboard, right? The G1 makes a noble attempt, but it’s flip-down keyboard is awkward and not very effective. The Palm Pre represents the first effective fusion of the two, although it’s not perfect either. The Pre keyboard is even a little smaller than the BlackBerry Curve, so it will be tough for people with large fingers to use. Nevertheless, it’s the first smartphone to effectively combine a full touchscreen with an effective qwerty thumboard. Other devices will likely follow its lead.
  5. It is the first true multi-tasking smartphone
    The most revolutionary part of the Palm Pre is its multi-tasking functionality. While all of the Pre’s current smartphone competitors have very limited multi-tasking, the Pre provides the computing power for full multi-tasking and does it in an elegant interface that makes it easy to flip through apps and get real-time alerts on-screen. In the webOS, applications appear as a deck of cards that you can flip through with the swipe of a finger. Each app is one card and can be organized, managed, and closed using touchscreen gestures. The webOS also offers on-screen alerts that pop up along the bottom of the screen. For example, while typing an email, you might be an IM message and have a meeting alert from your calendar. Both items would appear along the bottom of the screen and a simple tap would take you into either application. This makes the Palm Pre feel much more like the computing experience that all of us are used to on a desktop or laptop PC, and that’s the Palm Pre’s biggest contribution, and it’s biggest draw.


  1. Palm “knew” how to make an ecosystem.  They need to have already re-evaluated how to make an ecosystem in today’s world.  If they can’t integrate with Facebook and Twitter (or are limited to small file sizes) then they won’t succeed in the ecosystem.
  2. This one is DEAD-ON.  This is especially try with Verizon.  Sprint probably only has 6 months of Exclusivity.  Exclusivity was a rather dumb move on Apple’s part.  You can sell 2-3 times as many units by opening up who can use them.
  3. The webOS MAY be a strong development platform.  On paper it sounds great.  Palm needs to have the tools to make developers happy.  The webOS also needs to work as well as expected.  If it’s buggy and the user experience suffers, this can be a HUGE hit to the Pre.  I was looking for a stop-watch app for my Palm Treo.  The only thing available cost $15.  I would never pay more than $2.  If I could program my own, even better!
  4. I think this is the best slide-out keyboard ever.  Time will tell if you truly need it though.  I like it, but who knows.
  5. If the multi-tasking doesn’t kill the battery this can be a huge advantage.

One thought on “Palm Pre – 5 Reasons to Succeed or Fail”

  1. Great post!

    I personally own a Palm Treo 750, a little outdated… but it does everything I need.

    I can’t wait for a faster, full-sized version to be available for AT&T.

    Palm rocks, and I love phones with Windows Mobile.

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