Palm to Price Itself Into Oblivion? [UPDATED]
Well, Palm bet the company on a new handset today. It’s called the Palm Pre, though given the company’s faltering business, a better name for it would have been the Palm Hail Mary. It features a touchscreen, as well as a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from underneath a large touchscreen. Also on board: a 3-megapixel camera with flash. A nice addition. It supports EvDo, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. And it runs on a brand new operating system called Web OS, for which the UI boasts more than a handful of Apple-esque design flourishes.
By all appearances, the Pre is a slick little device. But is it formidable enough to stand its ground next to Apple’s iPhone, Research in Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry and the groaning board of Android devices currently in the handset market product pipeline? Palm (PALM) certainly seems to think so. In fact, the company is so confident in the Pre that CEO Ed Colligan seems to think it won’t need a sub-$200 price point to pull share from Apple (AAPL), et al. “Why would we do that when we have a significantly better product,” he asked ATD’s Peter Kafka earlier this afternoon.
Well, here’s one reason: To stay in business. Because despite Colligan’s claims of a “significantly better product,” Palm hasn’t raised the smartphone bar much (if at all) with the Pre. In fact, the device is as noteworthy for the features it may not include as for those it does. Absent from today’s grand unveiling was any mention of video. Also missing was a rival to Apple’s App Store and the robust developer-consumer ecosystem Apple has created around the iPhone and iPod touch. Even Google’s (GOOG) Android OS debuted with that. And the name; well, “Pre” isn’t likely to do very much for Palm’s already much diminished brand recognition.
Now, perhaps video and an app store are coming. But even if they do, will the Pre really be worth paying a premium for, as Colligan suggests? I’m not so sure–especially when the inevitable updates to the iPhone and BlackBerry remove the few advantages it does have over those devices. “Fast Web browsing” and “efficient multitasking” just aren’t big differentiators anymore.
That magnetized conductive charging platform sure is nice, though.
UPDATE: Turns out Palm is planning an App Store rival. According to the Pre press release, “The platform’s flexible environment will also allow developers to distribute their applications over-the-air via an on-device Palm application store.” And though no mention was made of video during Thursday’s Pre unveiling, the device will support it–both on the device and streaming. Said a Palm spokesperson, “The Pre has video playback, including YouTube video from the internet.”