Palm – So close yet so far

Tom and I kinda talked about this here. But now that InsideMobile is over, and Palm and/or the Pre won’t be around when the next InsideMobile comes around, I’m going to open up the doors, and call Palm out.

palm-pre-2Palm has doomed themselves. They came so close, they had success in their reach, and I’m calling it now, Palm won’t Palm in a year. The Pre won’t be around, WebOS might, just might, but I’m not holding my breath.

This tale spans the last few months, starting just before the Pre was announced.

So let’s look at the announcement. The weekend before Apple’s WWDC conference. No doubt in an attempt to steal some eyeballs from Apple. FAIL.

  1. You can’t beat apple at hype. Let them have the week, then announce. There’s less incentive for people to go BACK to talking about Apple if you announce the week after WWDC.
  2. You should have something compelling. “The Pre is out. there’s no apps, and the SDK is still a ways away” is pretty lame. Way to shoot your wad early.

Ok so the SDK is a ways away, there’s only 13 apps on the app store, the Pre isn’t flying off the shelves, GIVE THEM AWAY. You had a party at WWDC, it was semi invite only. About 50 people showed up, 50 people interested enough in the Pre to not be at any of the other parties. Give them all a Pre! Send them home as evangelists, and hackers.

Alas, what did Palm do? Had 1 Pre with a drained battery, that never seemed to leave their head of Developer Relations’ side. I’m not going to name names, but as head of Developer Relations, FAIL!

So we’ll skip forward a little bit now to InsideMobile. Don’t worry in that time, all that’s happened is the App store or whatever Palm calls it made it to like 100 apps or something. We started talking to Palm (same Developer Relations guy) fairly early, about making the Pre the centerpiece of the conference, with hands on training the Sunday before. We invited them to keynote on the evolution of the smartphone from the Palm perspective.

Well the SDK (despite being leaked) wasn’t out of private beta. the first plan was to make us cap the sign up a week and a half before the conference in order to pass on the list to Palm, for approval in the beta program. Then there was talk about opening the SDK to the public.. and more talk, and some more, and finally I think 5 days before the conference (counting weekends, LOL) the SDK was public.

We asked if we could get some Palm support, maybe the Developer Relations guy (local to the conference) could come out, maybe sponsor some lunch for the Sunday training, maybe just special Pre’s with DVI output for use with projectors.

We got, Nada. Not a thing. Well we did get lets of  hemming and hawing, and finally a “sorry we can’t, not interested, pass”

InsideMobile was the first ever, in the world, hands on Palm Pre, Mojo SDK training. We had about 60 people come for it. Was Palm there to see how many people were interested in spending a Sunday learning Mojo SDK, nope?

So that long and drawn out story, is the crux of why Palm is likely to not be around next year. The Pre certainly won’t be. You can’t dick developers around and show them no love, and expect them to flock to your platform. You can’t air creepy ass commercials and sponsor Burn Notice, and hope that makes your device compelling.

You can’t follow Apple’s lead and hope somehow it works for you. Palm should have looked back over the iPhone’s life, at every complaint, and shortcoming, and the Pre should have delivered every single one right out of the gate. Did they? No.

I’m putting it down for all the internet to see, The Pre, and likely Palm aren’t long for this world… I’ll add one caveat. Either get a new Developer Relations guy, or take the lame chains off, and let him do what he wants, how he wants, to get people interested in the Pre, and do it NOW. I know I might as well have said, if Vulcans land and show us Warp drive.

2 Responses to “Palm – So close yet so far”

  1. Marc says:

    Your story mirrors my Pre experience. Having set a calendar appointment a month in advance reminding me that the Pre goes on sale 6June2009 (if memory serves) exclusively at Best Buy. I roll in later afternoon (in case there were other freaks like me), Heidi rolled her eyes and went to Ross expecting me to geek out for a while.

    So I walk up to the Pre-appointed sales person. There is no Pre out of the box, no demo, not even a gutted plastic Pre to hold and get other peoples germs from.

    I talk to "dude" about the Pre and I will save the desirable language for my own blog, let's just call him an idiot. I had a number of questions prepared, nothing too technical, smart consumer questions. After asking the easiest one of the bunch I put all my questions on hold.

    Price? $899 w/no contract (got pissed). Talked with him for a minute, surveyed the scene one last time, and left very angry. I spent the next 30 minutes with Heidi in the woman's section of Ross looking at girl stuff.

    Later I made a few phone calls on the Pre, the Sprint stores and independent sellers all quoting wildly different no contract prices going all the way down to $499.

    As much as I my secretly love seeing Apple get spanked for being bull-headed, they deserve a ton of credit. Their success stems from smart technological acquisitions, developing a cult following (never hurts), and running quality control with an iron fist.

    What works for Apple will probably not work for Palm. Linux (as an OS) has a cult following, but the rising success has almost no parallel to Apple (*nix similarities not withstanding). Windows success (yes, they are still successful) comes from seeding the business community with clunky solutions that keep things going, even if Outlook takes 45 minutes from your day, everyday.

    Palm, you had a built in crowd (older business folks) and a slew of (young) developers looking to drop their HTML, JS, etc skills on the Pre OS, you had the time line necessary for a proper release (you're very correct JW), the world could have been delivered to them on a golden platter.

    Instead they waited outside the kitchen to trip the waiter carrying the golden platter. Way to fail Palm, way to fail.

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