I realize the Palm Pre’s new WebOS might be the best thing since sliced bread. I’m with that. Palm is well-known for its user-friendly interfaces. Unfortunately, I simply don’t believe that the Palm Pre will be able to save the company from being purchased by someone else. For starters, they launched the thing on the smallest of the 4 major carriers in the United States, and had such limited inventory at launch, it was nearly laughable. They’re tied to this carrier for an unspecified exclusivity period which most likely lasts at least until 2010, which is still several months away.
I’ve heard from numerous sources that the reason there was such limited inventory at launch is because Palm simply couldn’t afford to manufacture any more units – that’s pretty bad. What’s worse, they have appalling TV ads for the thing, and then we got this rumor, that Palm is set to open ‘Palm Pre Experience Centers’ in 2 locations in California this month.
I can’t help but wonder if Palm asked Nokia if this was a good idea. Nokia famously launched ‘Nokia Experience Centers’ in malls throughout the United States a few years ago. These open-air booths were stocked to the hilt with live demos of the company’s phones – everything from the most basic S40 clamshell to the uber-high end 9500 Communicator and the 8800 luxury lines. The idea was for consumers in these high-traffic mall areas to be able to really get a feel for the Nokia experience. Un-surprisingly, Nokia has removed the page explaining the Experience Centers from NokiaUSA.com – they were that bad.
Unfortunately, these turned out to be massive money pits that were later closed down. The biggest downfall was the inability to purchase anything from these booths. In order to get the cheaper rent from mall owners, Nokia had to set these up as interactive advertisements, rather than shops – the employees instead directed consumers to an on-site laptop to order devices online. What a waste.
So, apparently Palm can’t afford to build enough of its awesome new smartphone, but they’re going to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars to show the device off. I simply can’t see this going well for them, and firmly believe that by January 2010, if Palm doesn’t have a GSM-powered Pre *on shelves* and at least 2-3 more WebOS-powered devices *announced* by Christmas, they’ll be purchased by someone in the mobile industry, or at least a bid will be put out for them.
The Palm team, obviously, is capable of producing really cool, user-friendly stuff, and is clearly in-tune with today’s always-on device requirements, in terms of software.