INSIDE MOBILE: Palm Reading: Predictions for Palm's Pre, Pixi, Treo Smartphones

Palm has a lot of excellent assets: a successful history and a great team of staff, management, board of directors, investors and partners. To many, Palm still represents the notion of ease-of-use that enabled the Palm Treo to succeed so well in the market. These assets need to be preserved before they slip away. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy shares his prediction of what he thinks is going to take place at Palm going forward.


There is something that draws you in when you are driving down the road and see a sign that says, "Palm Reading." You'd really like to have someone be able to lay out your future, especially all the good things that are likely to happen in your life. You know it's a little bit of a farce (no one really knows what's going to happen), but it is fun to let some purported futurist give it a try. This is exactly the situation I feel I'm in when trying to read the future of Palm, Inc. Everyone wants me to let them know what's going to happen with this company. Here's my view on what I think is going to take place. Remember, the value of this "Palm reading" is worth exactly what you're paying for it.

Palm is in a bit of a rut. Being a public company, they just reported earnings. The report is that, while unit sales and revenue are up, both were lower than expected. Unit sales have increased thanks to some serious promotions being implemented by Verizon Wireless. However, the carrier's current promotion offers two Palm Pre's for $149 or two Palm Pixi's for $79. It's right on the edge of being a fire sale. Is bankruptcy next?

Palm CEO Jon Rubenstein, Palm's board of directors and the hardworking Palm team need to do something different. I can see a bright, rosy future for Palm but it's not from continuing what they are doing now. In Obama-esque style, they need to embrace change as a core value. Here are five things that I believe they should do:

1. Improve Palm products

The Palm Pre and Palm Pixi are nice products. But that's the problem: they are nice but not great. For convenience, they integrated an older Centro-like keyboard into the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi that is not easy to use. What they should do is build a product that incorporates a larger screen, perhaps just a tad larger than the iPhone. They should integrate a landscape, flip-out keyboard that is wide enough to make it easy to thumb type.

They need to integrate a camera with a major brand such as Canon, with 3x or 4x optical zoom, flash, film speed adjustment and ability to create high-definition movies. There is still a wide-open field out there to build better smartphones. Palm could lead the charge by creating the next generation of smartphone.

2. Improve Palm's branding

Drop the Palm Pre. Bring back the Palm Treo. It's a known brand. It represents everything good that Palm did for years to lead the smartphone market. With this branding, we could all then say that the Palm Pre was the "Precursor" to the return of the Palm Treo. Plus, there's a new definition for the three key service elements in the Palm Treo: 1) phone, 2) applications and 3) services such as social networking.