Friday, March 19, 2010

Palm: Dying by self-inflicted wounds

Today, Engadget ran a long post about what Palm needs to do in order to survive. The article reads more like a list of things not to do when you launch a product. Most people agree that when the Palm Pre was first shown at CES in January 2009, it had an innovative operating system and a decent, if not great, hardware platform. However, from CES forward, Palm made one major mistake after another. Here's the summarized list from the Engadget article:
  1. Palm waited six months to ship the Pre after it showed it at CES; by that time, much of the initial interest had cooled.
  2. Palm shipped the Pre only days before Apple announced the iPhone 3GS, which immediately stole most of the Pre's thunder.
  3. Palm's exclusive partner for the Pre launch was Sprint, probably the weakest of the major US wireless carriers. Palm should have done whatever it had to do to get the Pre into AT&T, Verizon or both.
  4. There was no Software Development Kit available for the Palm Pre when it shipped. It took a long time for Palm to ship the SDK, so only a handful of applications were available while the iPhone and Android were gaining apps tens or hundreds of times faster. Also, Palm has only recently gotten around to shipping a PDK that enables access to the low-level functions of the Pre and Pixi.
  5. Palm had awful marketing at launch, especially an incomprehensible advertising campaign that told buyers nothing about what made the Pre special or why they should buy it.
  6. When Verizon finally got the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, it advertised the phone as suitable only for housewives from the 70s. Palm should have done everything it could to nix Verizon's campaign, but whatever it did wasn't enough.
  7. Rather than develop its own content management application or license something from a third party, Palm deliberately broke USB compatibility rules in order to make the Pre look like an iPhone to iTunes. Apple promptly retaliated, closed off iTunes and got the USB Implementers Forum to order Palm to stop masquerading as Apple.
  8. The Palm Pixi makes no sense--it can't compete with other phones at its price point, and it was deliberately underpowered by Palm so as not to compete with the Pre.
  9. The Pre had lots of hardware problems, most of which Palm refused to acknowledge or take responsibility for.
I'm going to stop there. My point isn't that Palm shouldn't fix these problems, but rather that it never should have had these problems in the first place. Everyone makes mistakes when they launch new products; we're all human. Palm, however, made so many disastrous mistakes that the company is now probably too far gone for any survival guide. Writing a survival guide for Palm is like telling the deceased at a funeral home to stop smoking. It's already too late.
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