As a device, the Palm Pre is a fine alternative to the iPhone. Its multitasking features are second to none, it has a beautiful display, and its touch-screen works just as well as the iPhone's. It's even priced right. But it's the device's lack of applications that holds it back. iPhone users can extend the functionality of their mobile experience. They can enjoy a variety of features through the App Store that they simply can't with the default applications.
That's not the case with the Pre. For the most part, what the user sees when they start the Pre for the first time is what they get. And if those 30 applications just don't appeal to them, they have no chance of extending that functionality. Something needs to be done.
Palm knows that. Von Rospach said in the same blog statement that Palm will "begin publishing more content outside the early access program" as soon as it can. It will also accelerate its program to get "thousands" of developers creating applications as quickly as possible.
It's a smart move. Without the support of applications, the value proposition for users just isn't high enough. Enterprise customers won't have the mobile business apps that could help them perform their basic duties. And consumers who want mobile social networking apps or video games will be disappointed with the Pre. While all their friends are using touch-screen smartphones to communicate with others outside of SMS, they'll be left wondering why they can't do the same. It's a real problem.
If the Palm Pre is to survive in the highly competitive mobile phone market, applications are the keys to success. Without them, the Pre will look like a hobbled iPhone competitor. With them, it can compete on the same level as the leader in the space.
But getting those applications to the device is step one. So far, there is little chance that Palm will match the iPhone's 50,000 apps anytime soon. And as more consumers see those apps and try them out in the store, it will only be a matter of time before they pick the device with the best applications. In that case, it will be the iPhone and not the Pre, that will come out on top. For Palm, that could mean big trouble. And possibly, the end of the company's mobile unit as we know it.