No Relief In Sight For Palm

Poor Palm just can’t get a break. They are up for sale, but no one’s showed up at their open house, and Jon Rubenstein even baked cookies! In all seriousness, there’s no concrete evidence of a buyer, and the last few days have just been one blow after another.

First, their Senior Vice President of Software resigned, and from the looks of the stock grants flying around, apparently most of the office intended to follow him. Palm threw loads of stock at people to keep them around; if a new, deep pocketed suitor were around no one would be beating a path to the front door. Basically, not a great sign.

All that went on Friday. Today (Monday), the Wall Street Journal reported that Radio Shack is dropping Palm’s phones from their stores. Now, I don’t spend a great deal of time in my local Radio Shack, but when I do, I scope out their cell phone selection. So, the same company that carries a vast array of cheap prepaid cell phones (with a few smartphones thrown in) and overpriced batteries doesn’t have room for the Pre or the Pixi? NOT a good sign.

Finally, former Palm-er Michael Mace has a horrifically scathing blog post about Palm’s WebOS blunders. He lays out a pretty damning list of missteps, including the complicated way to transition from Palm OS to WebOS, plus debunking the notion that marketing killed the Pre. I thought his comments on Palm’s bizarre infatuation with Apple to be especially true:

4. What you do, do well. The old Palm’s “zen” design principles said: “Find a problem, find the simplest solution, punt the rest.” It was an appliance design philosophy translated into computing. The new Palm tried to boil the ocean. Its ambition to create a smartphone platform superior to iPhone forced it to compete on a very broad range of fronts, everything from OS to SDK to app store to hardware. Inevitably, Palm wasn’t able to execute equally well in all areas, and some of the Pre’s features were compromised due to lack of resources. Apple can get away with a flawed version one product because it has the financial resources to go back and fix its mistakes. Which brings me to the fifth lesson…

5. You’re not Apple. Trying to beat Apple head-on is a rich man’s game, the computing equivalent of fighting a land war in Asia. There are effective ways to compete with Apple on a budget, but they all involve avoiding or neutralizing its strengths, and targeting segments or tactics that Apple can’t or won’t pursue. Instead, Palm attacked head on. I’m picturing that Warner Brothers cartoon where Black Knight Yosemite Sam charges at full speed into the wall of a castle and bounces off flat as a pancake

Personally, I think Android killed Palm. Not in the same way Jon Rubenstein does, in that “What if Palm beat the Droid to Verizon” kind of way. It’s more that HTC, Motorola and Samsung grasped a key point in being the anti-iPhones; people still want big, bright screens and fast processors. The release of the 3GS and its crazy-fast speed should have lit a fire under Palm to speed up the Pre Plus and the Pixi. Frankly, they should have taken the money they spent designing the Pixi and plowed it into a Pre with a larger, better screen. And flowers to say “we’re so, so sorry” to all the developers they sent into Apple’s arms.

It’s just sad to see Palm on the verge of total failure; I wish I’d kept my old Palm M100, and I was sorely tempted to find a way to charge the T|E I found when rummaging through some boxes. At the same time, the tech world moves fast, and in answer to the question “What have you done for me lately?” the majority of consumers would say Palm’s done nothing.

Are you still clinging to hope that Palm pulls a rabbit out of a hat? Did you move on but still reflect fondly on your favorite Palm device? Share your thoughts below!

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3 replies

  1. RT @GearDiarySite: No Relief In Sight For Palm

  2. I haven’t spent much time with the Pre, but it seems clear enough that it fails to deliver to the same level as the iPhone or Droid (or Nexus, I assume). The recent Verizon ‘Mifi-like’ freebie really helps, but I don’t think it will be enough to sway folks – Palm name no longer means anything to the general public, and their product broke free of the legacy stuff without being compelling enough to draw people in … it is sad.

  3. Doug the Broken Record sez: ah, the Tapwave Zodiac! Add phone connectivity to it, and it could easily compete with the iPhone, plus be a *far* superior gaming platform. The Zodiac: five years ahead of its time.