Currently burning through huge cash infusions from Venture Capital firm Elevation Partners, Palm has moved all their chips, their rolex and mortgage to the center of the table with the Pre.
In a matter of days Palm will be releasing the most overhyped device since the original iPhone. They're calling it the Pre, which takes its name from the way it supposedly thinks and acts a few steps ahead of its owner. In essence, attempting to help consumers find solutions and information before they know what they need. I've got some strong opinions about the Pre, and for the sake of competition in the marketplace, I hope it's not just hype. But sadly, the closer we get to launch, the more I'm realizing it's just another plasticky iPhone competitor without a thriving developer community, no App Store and no proprietary competition to iTunes.
The video below is of ex-Apple executive, now Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein and Venture Capitalist (Elevation Partners) Roger McNamee hyping up the Pre even more at this week's All Things Digital conference. You'd think with all the massive media outlets hyping up the Pre so much, Rubinstein and McNamee would try toning it down a bit. But they are definitely not trying to calm things down. Instead, they're layering the hype with thick coats of redundant points about the mobile space, that Apple CEO Steve Jobs made us aware of two years ago.
With every piece of high technology, game-changing hardware or innovative software that's announced to the masses, several coats of hype are applied before an official release date is even set. For most companies and products, this is what causes their inevitable demise. The inability to live up to the expectations set out by their own people, which in turn leaves consumers disappointed and downright angry.
We can all agree that in the last few years, the iPhone stands out as the only piece of mobile hardware to induce a puddle of drool from everyone who's ever used one. Those who clamor against the iPhone, for whatever reasons, have already had their mobile fantasies fulfilled (Blackberry owners, email power-users), but for the vast majority of consumers, the iPhone came along and truly delivered the best and most intuitive user experience on the market. In fact, the software (iPhone OS) leaves the hardware lagging behind most of the time. With iPhone 3.0 Apple is hoping to change that, and all the rumors happen to be pointing in the right direction.
At the risk of sounding too negative, my honest opinion is that the Palm Pre will massively disappoint. The lack of dedicated Palm developed desktop software leaves the company open and vulnerable to being shut out by those they depend on to make the device sync with your media. Very early reports play as a constant reminder that a built-in QWERTY keyboard is not so enticing. Additionally, how does Palm expect potential iPhone switchers (which they are counting on) to adjust to the lack of dedicated killer apps that they have grown accustomed to using on a daily basis (twitter clients and Google iPhone offerings mainly). Not to mention the elephant in the room... Gaming.
Palm is facing a steep uphill battle. One that may very well turn out littered with lawsuits and legal troubles stemming not only from Apple, but other patent holders in the mobile industry. Yes, Palm has some very old patents in the books, and in court, some may hold up. But unless Apple's legal team takes a drastic turn, Palm may not even be able to afford the legal fees associated with taking on a company that has $30 billion (debt free) in the bank.
• For the 13 weeks ending 2009-02-28, Palm's net profit was -95 million
• Palm is burning close to $1 million a day
• "Palm shares closed Thursday up 93 cents, or 8.8%, to $11.46 and are unchanged in recent late trading" (WSJ)
• The Pre syncs with iTunes, which leaves it completely vulnerable to being shut-out by Apple
• Apple is closely watching Palm and will aggressively defend its intellectual property through legal outlets
• Palm's stock is currently surging on rumors that the device is headed to Verizon
• " Instead of creating an entirely new trunk Palm is branching off of the established phone environments." (John Biggs over at CrunchGear)