Yeah. Those PC Guys Never Stood a Chance, Palm.

Published on January 8, 2009
by John Paczkowski

We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

— In 2006, Palm CEO Ed Colligan utters the words he’s been choking on since the debut of Apple’s iPhone

For Palm (PALM), which lost two-thirds of its market value in 2008, today may well be a watershed event–the point at which its long downward trajectory was suddenly reversed, buoyed up by a new operating system too long in coming. At a Consumer Electronics Show event later this morning, the company is expected to uncrate its Nova OS and a line of Nova-powered offerings with which it hopes to reinvigorate the Palm franchise.

Hope, of course, is the operative word here. Because while insiders describe Nova with superlatives typically reserved for the likes of Apple (“We’re onto something huge,” Palm engineer Mike Bell recently told BusinessWeek. “Some of the stuff we’re working on here is mind-blowing.”), Palm’s platform and its business remain very much a show-me story–or rather a you-can-show-me-but-I-probably-won’t-believe-you story. Consider this late December research note from Needham analyst Mark May:

Although the new platform is unlikely to challenge any of the competing smartphone platforms, the credentials of Palm’s engineering team lend a modicum of credibility to this possibility…. Palm is on the verge of oblivion. While the company has traded water the past three years, new competitors, such as Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), have entered the market while others, such as Research In Motion (RIMM), have gotten much stronger.

Clearly, May isn’t buying Palm’s “we’re onto something huge” claims. That said, there’s no reason to dismiss them–just yet, anyway.

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