Palm Pre – why a rising star fell fast

Palm shares plunged this past Friday March 19th to their lowest level in more than a year.  The Palm Pre Smartphone was to be the ‘killer app’ forecast to bring Palm back to relevancy.  In fact Palm noted in a article last week that the Pre Isn’t an Anything’ Killer.  I think many of us knew that.  Now the talk on the street is that Palm is positioned to be acquired.  What happened? 

When the Palm Pre was released in June of 2009 the buzz was almost universally positive and the subsequent reviews nearly as positive.  The removable battery was a distinct advantage over the iPhone and the interface seemingly easy to use and stable.   The phone was rated more than adequate and email and web access also was notably strong.  The lack of applications for it (as opposed to the iPhone) was and is a drawback but no device can hold a candle to the iPhone when it comes to apps.  Sprint was the exclusive carrier at first but Palm has opened itself up to other carriers like Verizon. 

There were other problems – touch screen and battery life to name two.  Sachin Agarwal commented on his experience in the Silicon Valley Insider last month –

While I recognize the problems with Palm Pre, it still is a pretty cool device to use and this was what I heard from a new friend this past Saturday night.  He raved about the performance and ease of operation.  It’s small, slim and the pull-out keyboard is a definitive asset (compared to my BB Storm which seems gigantic next to it). 

Elevation Partners (led by U2’s Bono) is a primary investor in Palm – that likely falls under the umbrella of it seemed like a good idea at the time – but interesting that they had the same optimism as did I, (and many others) before the release.  There was a LOT of buzz prior to the release. And then very little noise, at least from the standpoint of marketing and advertising messages.   In fact the pre-launch campaign from Modernista was slammed, (the comment that they thought that Pre was a new brand of feminine deodorant speaks volumes) –  

Since then I cannot recall a Palm Pre offer being mailed, emailed, or promoted on Facebook or anywhere else for that matter.   Verizon ran a few television ads touting the simplicity of the operating system while at the same time alienating women by implying mom is too dumb to use a smart phone.  This would suggest that having the carrier distribute Palm’s advertising message might not have been the best idea ever either. 

It is important to keep in mind that Palm Inc. had fallen so far from public perception that an entire re-brand of Palm (much less the Pre itself) was necessary.  All of their problems can hardly be attributed to recent Palm Pre advertising campaigns.  What surprises me most is how an exciting and positive pre-launch buzz has unraveled into what appears to be an unmitigated disaster on all fronts. 

Does anybody out there love or hate their Palm Pre?  Anyone?   Hello?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver, baseball lover
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