Palm SVP to leave, others incentivized to stay

Michael Abbott giving a presentation.Everyone knows that Palm is a sinking ship. Even Palm’s employees know it. A recent SEC filing shows us that Palm’s senior vice president of software and services, Michael Abbott, will be leaving the company some time this month. That same filing also showed some, ah, generous incentives aimed at keeping others from following suit.

Just how badly does Palm want to keep the other Senior VPs? How about a bunch of stock and a $250,000 cash bonus. If that’s not hitting the panic button I really don’t know what is. It’s probably safe to assume that Abbott was made some sort of offer to stick around, something he was willing to turn down to take all of his WebOS ingenuity elsewhere. You have to feel bad for the guy. He was an integral part of what is actually a great product (the OS, not the handsets that run the OS) but because of a serious marketing failure and some lackluster hardware Palm just never got off the ground.

Better luck at the new position, Mike.

Source: Palm

How do you beat Apple lawsuits? Buy Palm!

HTC vs. Palm.According to Bloomberg, Palm is for sale, and the top candidate might not be somebody you’d expect. HTC is currently the target of an Apple lawsuit claiming 20 counts of patent infringement on iPhone IP. Buying Palm could give Google’s handset maker of choice the patents it needs to fight the Apple suit. Smart play, fellas.

HTC isn’t looking for hardware – it needs an operating system. As it stands, only Google and Apple have what is considered a modern mobile operating system (sorry, RIM, you aren’t even close). Unfortunately, HTC would probably only use the purchase to give it enough patents for a war with Apple, not because it actually thinks WebOS will go anywhere. Palm didn’t sell nearly enough handsets to keep the world interested in WebOS.

HTC wants to avoid is a costly licensing settlement with Apple that could affect profits far into the future. Spending several hundred million dollars on a dying company could be the cheap alternative it’s been looking for.

Palm’s latest quarter points to a buyout

Poor little Pre.The last quarter’s financial results are in from Palm and things look grim. Everyone expected it. Palm warned us. That doesn’t take the sting out of $22 million in losses and some ugly sales numbers. The company shipped 960,000 phones last quarter, which sounds great until you see that it only sold 400,000 to consumers – 30% less than last quarter. That’s a lot of handsets to be sitting on the stock shelves.

The news almost certainly points to a buyer. Palm’s had nine months of work on WebOS to turn this ship around and it’s just not happening. The longer it lingers in a market where juggernauts like the iPhone and the Droid exist, the worse things are going to get. Palm needs someone to bail it out, the only question remaining is, who?

It could very well be RIM, though I doubt it would pull the trigger. RIM needs a more consumer-friendly platform, which WebOS would offer. There’s also someone like HP, a company that could use a cellular presence. The most likely, though, is probably Google. Google has the cashflow to throw a pile of money at Palm, dissect the company for all the good parts and people, keep development going on the stuff it likes and just scrap the rest. It also has the relationships with wireless providers to get Palm out of the mess its currently in, relying mostly on Sprint, which has its own sales issues, to keep the company alive.

Whoever it is, I’d expect serious discussions to start before the year’s end.

Source: Palm

Palm PDK will boost the WebOS App Catalog

Palm is preparing to launch the WebOS Plug-in Development Kit next week, a developer tool that should have dropped with the Pre. It’s still a great tool, though, one that will supposedly allow developers to port applications from the iPhone OS to WebOS in a matter of days without any performance hangups. You see why this should have been released earlier?

Since the advent of WebOS, Palm’s greatest weakness has been its App Catalog. There just isn’t enough there, mostly because the company didn’t get its developer kit out for months after the Pre launched. That left a lot of people waiting for something good before switching over. In the meantime we’ve seen a new iPhone, two juggernaut Android phones, and a slew of other releases that are much more attractive. The PDK will give the App Catalog a much needed boost, but realistically, it’s probably too late.

I still can’t shake the feeling that Palm should have waited 12 months on the Pre release. It’s not like they’re making significant money off the phone and it’s mostly because of a really poor software experience. I don’t mean WebOS is a bad OS – it’s actually quite the opposite – but without any kind of app support the phone looks archaic next to its competitors.

Source: AllThingsD

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Palm lowers sales expectations

Palm Pre and Pixi.In a release today, Palm announced it was lowering sales expectations for the year due to slower than expected customer adoption of the new WebOS platform. As CEO Jon Rubinstein put things, “driving broad consumer adoption of Palm products is taking longer than we anticipated.”

His wording seems to suggest that the company still thinks consumers will pick Palm, but that it’s going to take more time. I’ve got news, fellas. It ain’t happening. It’s now nearly eight months since the Pre launched, eight months in which the company has failed to build a strong developer base, to say nothing of mediocre sales. We’re just weeks past Palm’s launch with Verizon, about which we’ve heard nothing. That rarely means good things.

Now everyone has just one question in mind – who’s going to buy Palm? The only other possibility would be for the company to develop yet another device, which I highly doubt it has the money to do. We know RIM and Nokia could both use a better platform, and Dell has been making passing attempts the cell phone market for years. None of them have actually expressed interest, though, and I would think only Nokia or RIM would be in a position to really capitalize on that kind of acquisition.

In any case, Palm is in trouble. We’ll see if it can dig itself out by year’s end.

Source: Business Insider

Palm’s still bleeding money at alarming rates

Palm lineup.I’ll start of on a positive note. This is no $500 million dollar hematoma, the likes of which we saw from Palm last year. That’s as good as it gets, though. When you look at the raw numbers, the situation is bad.

For Q2 of fiscal 2010 for Palm, the company sold just 783,000 smartphones, a decrease of 5% from last quarter. Just so you get that, leading up to the holidays and on the heels of the Pixi release, Palm sold fewer smartphones than it did last quarter.

Here’s CEO Jon Rubenstein:

We are continuing to execute strongly against our long-term strategy with the delivery of Palm Pixi, the new carrier launches completed this quarter, and the upcoming opening of Palm’s full developer program. We’re still in the early stages of a long race, and we’re energized by the opportunity to compete in this exciting market.

I hate to be the one to tell you, Jon, but this won’t be a long race at all if you keep losing money and market share. There is no long-term plan. You need to get app development going in a big way. You need to get your devices into the hands of three times as many consumers and hope that half of them like what you sell. You need to have thought of this a year ago, long before the Pre launch.

Unless, of course, your long-term strat is to get bought. That I can actually see happening.

Source: AllThingsD

Facebook for WebOS is as weak as the App Catalog

facebook-palmLike most things involving WebOS and the new Palm devices, the Facebook app for WebOS is underwhelming. Actually, it’s worse than that, considering how far app development has come since the smartphone app craze started. Maybe they should get Joe Hewitt involved? I hear he’s done with that other project he’s been working on.

The problem is just a total lack of features. You get unfiltered news feeds, even if you’ve unselected application updates in your profile, and videos and links pull you out of the app. Sure it’s nice to multitask but to do so unnecessarily is just silly. There’s seemingly no search feature, no way to access events, and clicking another person’s name seems to bring up little more than contact info.

What can you do? Well, you can upload pictures and post status updates and…well that seems to be about it. Another compelling reason to get a Palm Pre.

Will somebody save Palm?

Palm Pixi.Rumors that Nokia might take a look at purchasing Palm resurfaced today, giving Palm stock an eight percent bump. It’s a deal we’ve been hearing about for months, though not always with Nokia as the buyer. There have also been rumors that Dell or Microsoft could nab the struggling mobile company.

Let’s consider the Nokia thing for a minute, though. I would be amazed to see it drop the estimated $2 billion to purchase Palm, especially since Palm isn’t exactly going gangbusters. Stock dipped 30% after this same deal failed to mature in September. So why would Nokia spend so much just to acquire the company, not to mention the marketing that Palm needs to stay alive, when the Finnish handset manufacturer is bleeding market share to Apple every day? It just doesn’t make sense.

Palm’s struggling stock is a clear reminder that the company needs help, but I don’t think it would bring enough value to any of the potential buyers to make a deal reasonable. If anything, Nokia could license WebOS for a facelift on a few devices, but even Palm’s operating system seems to have an expiration date looming in the near future.

Palm embraces Pre development, maybe too late

Palm Pre on WebOS.Palm has finally given in to the idea that open development is the way to go on the Pre. At a conference today where the prime topic was the future of WebOS, the company announced that it would be allowing developers to distribute free apps over the web.

I would call this the Pre’s saving grace if it weren’t coming so late in the game, because it’s an incredible idea. Developers simply submit the apps to Palm on a review-/censor-free basis and receive a URL back for full distribution. On top of that Palm is waiving the $99 fee for developers using the free distribution method. Regular app submission for the App Catalog will still cost $50. The last brilliant stroke in Palm’s terribly tardy plan was giving each of the developers at the WebOS conference a free Pre with a month’s service and a Touchstone dock. The whole thing is really a great idea…3 months ago.

At this point developers are working with such a small user base that even free phones and unbridled distribution may not be enough to win them back. The Pre needed to see healthy app growth at launch. Instead the store was stagnant as Palm struggled to get the SDK out on time. This new program could have fostered explosive growth then, but now it will probably look more like Palm’s last flash in the pan.

Source: TechCrunch

Palm’s iTunes hacking is less than inspiring

Palm Pre for iTunes?For a phone that’s billed to do things differently from the iPhone, Palm sure has gone to a lot of trouble to make the Pre sync with iTunes. The company released WebOS version 1.2.1 recently, which brings back iTunes sync along with a few maintenance fixes.

The funny thing is, the Pre could sync with iTunes via an xml file, which is an Apple approved and supported method for third-party devices. Instead, Palm keeps trying to find ways to make the Pre look and perform like an iPod, something about which Apple is none to happy. So why bother? Why keep fighting back against every new iTunes update that breaks the functionality?

Craig Hunter, a mobile developer who we’ve talked about for his tough review of the WebOS SDK, said it best:

Clearly, other companies know how to sync painlessly with iTunes music (see RIM’s Blackberry Media Sync for example), so why doesn’t Palm develop a syncing solution for their own hardware? …I seriously question the strategy and brains of any company that ties critical product capabilities to the unsupported use of their competitor’s software. I mean, really? Can it get any more ridiculous? Can you possibly send a more mixed, less confidence-inspiring, “we’re a bunch of hacks who can’t provide our own sync software for our products” message to customers?

Well put, Craig. Well put.