If the Pre fails, what happens to Palm?
The buzz around the upcoming Palm Pre has most of the gadget media world talking about the device as if it is already a success, but what if it is not?
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the Pre. I am just speculating what happens if the device is released and it is not the success that everyone seems to be aiming it to be. Would a failed second coming of innovative Palm devices be the last nail in the coffin for the long time mobile device maker?
Palm has not been the powerhouse it once was in the smartphone world since the Treo 650 era.
This has been due to many factors:
1) Stale hardware: Look through Palm's line in the past 3 to 4 years and you will see that things did not start changing till recently. Most items were either the same hardware with a slightly tweaked casing or just the same item period. (Their stand alone PDA line for example)
2) Stale OS: What once made Palm great and gave them a huge following has become their weakest point. The Palm OS has not seen any major changes in years. Every Palm OS device has been running the same OS version since the release of Palm OS 5. This is due mostly in part to company politics and disorganization as Palm has been split in to two parts, had a part sold off and then had the rights to the Palm OS name thrown back and forth over the years since before Palm OS 5 became an old OS. This is not good as everyone else in the market kept moving forward in varying degrees, which further showed the age of Palm OS as you compared it side by side with others.
Also, adding Windows Mobile options in their device line up next to Windows Mobile variants did not help matters any.
3) New Market entries: Apple has jumped into the smartphone arena and taken a chunk of the smartphone market for themselves. They quickly got the attention of both the tech crowd and the casual mobile user crowd with their take on user touch interfaces. Also shaking up the smartphone world is Apple's centralized Application Store which allows all users (technically and non technically) easy access to installing new applications on their device from one location.
Even newer than Apple is Google's Android which is not tied down to one device range like Mobile OS X on the iPhone. Android is a Linux based Operating System that does not shy away from its open source roots and actually embraces it. This has lead Android to be a quickly advancing OS with its own application market and features being added constantly.
4) Symbian: The Symbian smartphone OS is not a common one in North America, but for the rest of the smartphone globe, it is the de facto standard. Many statistics show that the Symbian platform still is the world leader in smartphone market share by a far margin. That margin was decreasing with the iphone, the flood of Windows Mobile devices and RIM making consumer oriented devices. Now that Nokia has taken majority control of Symbian, they are working fast to pick up development and get it on more devices. So far it seems to be working with devices like the Samsung INNOV8, Nokia 5800 MusicXpress, Nokia E71 / E71x (AT&T version), Nokia N96 and more. Then there are many upcoming Symbian devices that compete in the same high end smartphone space that Palm is aiming the Pre at. Some of these upcoming devices are the Sony Ericsson Idou (12.1 MP Camera!), Samsung Omnia HD (shoots 720p video!),and the Nokia N97 (32GB of storage plus a memory card slot for more!). If anyone of these handsets make a big splash in North America where the Pre will be launched first on Sprint's network, then it could seriously impact the sales of the device even more than the competing devices that are already out.
So what does this mean for the once dominant PDA / Smartphone house that is Palm. Well it leaves them in a very competitive landscape in a world where they are no longer leading the way. The way I see it there are 3 distinct possible out comes:
1) The Pre is a smash hit and swings the market back int eh favor of Palm again.
2) The Pre is a good device, but it is no game changer and does just well enough to keep Palm going as they are, but make them a little bit more relevant in the smartphone space.
3) The Pre is a complete failure and put Palm in big trouble with all of the time and money they wasted on it.
Judging by what I have been hearing about and seeing of the Pre, outcome is not likely unless there is a major flaw that comes up in hardware from the manufacturing process. Other than a mass production issue like that, the Pre will likely be along the lines of 1 or 2.
Any other thoughts?