10 Ways Palm Could Make a Comeback in the Mobile World

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-02-28 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Over the past year, Palm has been struggling. The company's Pre and Pixi have yet to gain the kind of market traction the company hopes for. There's little chance of that changing in the short term until Palm gets to work on improving its business. Here are 10 ways it can do just that.

Palm is working on a refresh of its Pre and Pixi software to compete more effectively in the mobile space. An update to its WebOS, which is scheduled to be released Feb. 26, would deliver several features that folks have been waiting for, including video capturing and editing. But all this talk about Palm makes me wonder what the company can do to stage a comeback in a market where it has been largely ineffectual.

The mobile business is dominated by Apple, Nokia and, to a lesser extent, Google. When Palm first announced the Pre, the company hoped that it could live up to its hype. Some even called the device an "iPhone killer." Months later, the Pre is an also-ran in the marketplace. The device fell flat for several reasons, including its original exclusivity to Sprint, battery issues and other software quirks that made some folks turn against Palm's product. The Pixi has suffered a similar outcome.

But it's not quite over for Palm. The company still has the ability to turn things around if it can find a way to revolutionize its products and re-establish itself as a major player in the market. It won't be easy. But there are some strategies it can follow.

1. Revamp the Pre

The Palm Pre is in desperate need of attention. The device pales in comparison to the iPhone. It's not only oddly designed, but it lacks the "wow" value that the iPhone has. In a space where Palm is attempting to compete with Apple, that's a major problem. To turn things around, Palm needs to go back to the drawing board with the Pre and deliver a revision that reflects the current design requirements consumers have.

2. Work on WebOS

WebOS has quickly turned out to be more trouble than it's worth for Palm. The operating system seemed like a fine idea to differentiate the product in the beginning, but it didn't resonate with consumers. Palm needs to take a step back and evaluate what's really needed in WebOS and eliminate all the rest. Multitasking is a must-have, but whether or not the software is really capable of competing against other devices on the market is very much up for debate.

3. Remember Apple's App Store

Developing applications for Palm's OS makes little sense. Currently, Apple has more than 140,000 applications available in its store. Palm has a fraction of that number of apps available for its platform and it has WebOS to blame. Developers want to be able to easily port applications from one platform to another. They can do that between the iPhone and Android. They can't do that with Palm's operating system. Until Palm addresses that major problem, it can't expect to gain ground in the mobile market.

4. Stick with multiple carriers

Whatever gave Palm the idea to lock the Pre to Sprint's network at its launch is anyone's guess. It was a major blunder. Going forward, Palm needs to continue to offer its devices on multiple carriers. Having the Pre and Pixi on Verizon's network is a good first step, but it can't lose sight of the value of ubiquity. I understand that Palm wanted consumers to believe that it was following an iPhone-like strategy, thus making it a real iPhone competitor, but it didn't work. Palm's Pre needs to be carrier-agnostic.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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