After more than one year of unveiling the Palm Pre at CES, the company is struggling to keep up sales. The company’s shares have dropped to $4 per share. Wall Street’s seers are already predicting the only two available options: acquisition or insolvency. What went wrong then? Wasn’t the Palm Pre touted to be the iPhone killer from Palm? Here’s where Palm messed up.
The App Catalogue:
Promising to be more open and developer friendly, the App Catalogue was launched to complement the webOS. It has all but lived up to that expectation. The developer and the general user were very excited with the possibility of a mad rush of apps for the webOS, but the rush never came. The App Catalogue was launched in June 2009 with a measly 30 apps. The situation remained the same for the next two months and finally at the end of the year the number crawled to a 1000. Compare that to the 100,000+ apps available for iPhone. The App Catalogue never even came close to giving a competition to the iPhone Apps. 1000 apps may feel like an adequate number to satisfy everyone’s needs but an average buyer looks for more in a high end phone like Pre. This is where Apple scores. In 100,000 apps one is bound to find a goofy and interesting app, and this app is shared with others. A person without an iPhone is then interested what else might be on offer which will catch his eye. This was a big deficiency for a Pre user when compared to an iPhone enthusiast.
Poor performance is one thing an average phone user will not tolerate. Contrary to the company’s claims, many Palm users will vouch for the fact that the performance of the Palm was way below standards. There were serious quality control issues that had been left unaddressed. The return rate of the Pre was much higher than any other Smartphone of the time. Many reviewers too had sent back their test phones for replacements and there was a sizeable chunk of Palm users who had got their phones replaced more than once. For a company which is an industry dwarf a glitched phone is just plain suicide.
The Pre was definitely targeted at women though the company never officially stated it. The mirror on the back and the cute cuddly looks definitely look good on paper but it never clicked off the drawing charts. Palm claimed the phone was designed to better fit into one’s pocket unlike the iPhone which was too wide. The fact is that an average user would prefer a thinner phone than a bulky one even if it is wider. Moreover in case of a touch screen, consumers popularly prefer the wider one. The keyboard of the Pre too would have been better off in landscape mode than portrait mode which kind of seemed cramped up in comparison to iPhone’s wide onscreen keyboard.
Another factor which eliminated Pre from the race was the lack of any support in the likes of iTunes or Google Voice. The ease of syncing the phone with Google Voice or iTunes had Apple and Nexus users hooked onto their devices while Palm had nothing to offer on that front. This contributed to customers drifting away from webOS.
On a concluding note the Pre definitely had a few good points with its cloud computing ability, though none of its advantages were compelling enough. As stated earlier the industry’s dwarf had made a mistake and it neither did have the resources to correct itself nor did its competitors offer any time to think about it. The release of iPhone 3GS couldn’t have come at a worse time for Palm with many of Pre users showing signs of restlessness. Finally Palm has come to the point where it can only choose how to end its misery. With the release of Windows Phone 7 Series the phone industry is all set to become a tripartite struggle between Microsoft, Apple and Google.