What's Wrong with Palm? The Pre Itself

Earlier this week Palm announced quarterly results, which disappointed. The company said it had sold just under 800K smartphones:

The company shipped a total of 783,000 smartphone units during the quarter, representing a 5 percent decrease from the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 and a year-over-year increase of 41 percent compared to the second quarter of fiscal year 2009. Smartphone sell-through for the second quarter was 573,000 units, down 29 percent from the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 and down 4 percent year-over-year. 

Palm CFO Doug Jeffries said that the company had seen "lower-than-expected sell through volumes" via its exclusive US carrier Sprint. The market and bloggers immediately speculated that a Verizon relationship would help solve Palm's problems. I'm not so sure. 


Elevation Partners owns 39% of Palm. This prediction turns out to be purely wishful thinking on McNamee's part.

As a Pre owner I can say the following about what's good about the phone:

But there's a whole lot that's weak, especially in view of the competition. The handset is not highly intuitive. The physical keyboard and the absence of a virtual keyboard make keying in forms or search queries hard. There's no voice control or interface. There's no predictive text to speed up queries. The organization of "web cards" on the home screen is quite awkward and it's not easy to manipulate them. 

The phone itself has strange quirks. For example, after I hang up a call it has to go through a cycling process before I can make another call; I can't just start dialing again. 

The awkwardness of using the mobile Web on the device makes apps imperative -- and there are precious few by comparison to the iPhone and Android. (There are around 800 according to Palm.) Small sales mean that developers are generally not going to pay much attention to WebOS unless Palm offers some big incentives. 

Yes, having Verizon as a carrier would help sales; and having more apps would make the user experience better. But it's little things on the device itself that don't work well or weren't thought through completely that make it less than entirely successful. I have my problems with Sprint, but don't blame the carrier or other external variables.

Palm: take a look in the mirror and build a better device.