Sprint Isn't Helping

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-08-19 Print this article Print


Although the iPhone has once again popularized exclusivity deals in the mobile phone business, it's on a major network. AT&T has millions of subscribers. It's currently one of the top U.S. carriers (thanks in no small part to the iPhone). Even better, it has a relatively ubiquitous 3G network.

Sprint isn't so lucky. Since its acquisition of Nextel, the company hasn't been able to provide the kind of experience users want. Its widespread high-speed data rollout is taking too long. Its ability to attract customers is dwindling. And the Palm Pre, the device it hoped would bring a huge wave of new subscribers, isn't quite holding up its end of the bargain. Most end users don't want to switch to Sprint because of those problems. And that's leading to even more troubles for the Pre.

A chance?

But just because the Palm Pre is suffering under the might of the iPhone, it doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't have a chance to rebound and become a major force in the industry. In fact, it's entirely possible that it could make its mark. But that all needs to start with a total revamping of its focus.

See, the Palm Pre is a fine device, but it can't match the iPhone on any level. Due to so few apps, it's not appealing to consumers. Although it has some nice enterprise features, they aren't able to stack up against the BlackBerry or even the iPhone's 3.0 software. Simply put, Palm finds itself in the middle of two major markets.

Realizing that, it needs to decide if the Pre is a consumer device or an enterprise product. If it's the latter, it needs to build more enterprise-friendly features into the device and market it as the corporate world's phone. If it wants to be a consumer product, it needs to work far more diligently at getting apps to users.

At the same time, Palm needs to address its software and battery issues. Multitasking is nice, but it needs to be done better. Plus, it won't really show its value until there are more apps available for the product. Moreover, Palm needs to ensure that updates made to the Pre will ensure a better battery life. That single problem is causing some to think twice about the Pre.

Looking ahead

So as we look ahead at what the Palm Pre might become, it's clear that it's at a crossroads. Sticking with the status quo will practically ensure its demise. But the wrong move could cause the same result. Palm's strategy needs to start by solving the application and battery problems. It also needs to decide who it wants to target going forward. Something needs to be done. And soon.


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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