When Palm first announced the Pre, with its WebOS operating system and developer ecosystem, the technology world was tossed into a tizzy. Would this be the resurgence of Palm to its former glory at last, following too many years mired in Treo?
It seemed to be. I wagered with John Biggs over the launch of the Pre, and won. The launch of the device was strong, but past that launch the device has languished. It has surely lost a PR war to Android, iPhone, and even Blackberry. In the mind of the consumer, is the Pre a real player?
Of course, the device has hardly had an easy road, with Apple blocking the Pre and iTunes at every step of the way, forcing Palm to hack , rehack, and tinker to get the two just to talk to one another.
Now, in a move to spread the device, and tilt the odds on their all-in bet, Palm has secured a spot at both AT&T and Verizon in 2010 for its devices, putting the phones on three of the four main US cellular carriers. Few phone manufacturers can claim that such wide distribution.
Will it hurt the device to lose its carrier exclusivity? Not at. In fact, I view this change as the single best way that Palm could have pushed its brand and product, given its limited advertising budget and balance sheet. Why? Foot traffic inside those stores costs nil compared to an augmented national advertising scheme.
Now that Palm has two devices in its fold, with upgraded “plus” versions coming out, it can reach more consumer flavors than it could at launch with just the original Pre.
Will the new carriers be a panacea for Palm? Hardly, but it is a strong step in the right direction. What we need now is a third Palm device: either aimed directly at the corporate market, or at the broad consumer, each with a tailored plan to make them cheaper than the other alternatives.
Palm has to fight its way out of its Treo reputation, and to do so it should compete on all fronts. It has a strong product, in my opinion, and is chasing consumers all over, so why not attempt to be more price competitive?