If Everyone Likes The Palm Pre, Why So Much Hedging?

from the I'm-Totally-Sure...Well,-Maybe dept

The Palm Pre launches at Sprint this Saturday, and you’ve probably been seeing an increasing amount of buzz on the subject [that is a Google search link, and today will show buzz, but if you’re reading this later, will be meaningless]. I wrote about the Pre on Techdirt after being very impressed with the phone at CES and MWC Barcelona. I wrote, "I’m not sure when the bandwagon is going to hit the trail for this device, but I’m saddling up right now." And in the intervening months, I’ve noted that more and more reviewers were, like me, heaping praise on the device. But there was something else: many reviewers couched the endorsement of the Pre with caveats. At the end of every glowing article was a conclusion that seemed out of sync with the review. Here were mine, "I can’t predict whether the developer community will rally around the Pre, or whether Sprint and Palm will be successful in selling big volumes, but I want to call this one early: the Pre is a great smartphone." Walt Mossberg at the WSJ wraps up his glowing review with, "All in all, I believe the Pre is a smart, sophisticated product that will have particular appeal for those who want a physical keyboard. It is thoughtfully designed, works well and could give the iPhone and BlackBerry strong competition — but only if it fixes its app store and can attract third-party developers."

The caveats were reasonable. Developers have limited resources, and collective uncertainty in Palm and Sprint performance has us hedging our bets. Sure, we could assert that the device is great, but we could not be sure if the ecosystem would grow around it. But I think I’m in a better position to do that now. When 98 out of every 100 reviews say the device is great, isn’t that one hell of a consensus? I haven’t seen that kind of agreement in this industry since AFTER the launch of the iPhone. That’s exactly the kind of community consensus that seeds an ecosystem. I officially retract my hedge. What content developer wouldn’t be at least attracted to a device that gains such consistently high grades? Is it just hype? No. A landslide of positive reviews from people who actually tested isn’t hype – it’s straight As. That’s good news for Palm, good news for consumers in that we get another competitive device to run alongside the iPhone, but only marginally good news for Sprint. Verizon took the wind out of Sprint’s sales [sic] by announcing they, too would carry the Pre by year end, and AT&T is rumored to want a GSM version.

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Comments on “If Everyone Likes The Palm Pre, Why So Much Hedging?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Apple gets developers to do stuff for free because the cool kids all want to be part of the cool company and have their cool app on the cool apple thing.

The Pre will likely attract a slightly more serious crowd (the people who were not swayed by the I-thing), and in turn, might not attract the same level of silly development that surrounded the i-things.

There is also the question of first mover status, in the same way that Apple got squished for years by microsoft in the PC and especially business PC market, the i-thing is pretty much the leader in it’s marketplace.

Rosedale (profile) says:

I would still hedge

You are right that the phone looks awesome. In fact, I want one, but it won’t ever happen if they keep the phone locked up on Sprint. My dislike and distrust of Sprint goes deeper than any hardware love. I think there are plenty of other people who agree, though I must say I like their recent commercials.

Anyway if you are right that Verizon and ATT are coming out with models soon than yes this will be an awesome phone!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I would still hedge

There’s a lot of sentiment that way. Pre has a huge hurdle to overcome just to be considered on par with the iPhone and Blackberry. The association with Sprint is at best no impact, but is viewed by many (myself included) as a deal breaker. Unfortunately for us, the consumers, I think the association with Sprint will place the Pre as a distant runner-up in the smart phone market.

John Doe says:

Be prepared for the fan boyz...

I have the Blackberry Storm (I am on Verizon) and love it. Myself and several others use it and it is a great phone. Why it gets no press, not even bad press, puzzles me. It seems the Pre has gotten a lot of good press until recently when people seem to have turned a little negative.

The iPhone fan boyz really amaze me though. No matter how bad Apple treats them, no matter the phones limitations, they sing its praises to all that will listen and many who don’t want to hear it. I am no fan boy, when my Storm is up for renewal; I will take another look at what is available and pick the best device I can.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Be prepared for the fan boyz...

Agree that the Apple fan phenomenon defies reason. I wrote a Techdirt post gushing – just spouting – praise of the iPhone the week before it launched (http://www.techdirt.com/feature.php?sid=200706293), and somebody still managed to suspect I was anti-Apple: “Maybe he is some sort of Microsoft-biased guy”

We’ve seen similar random flames at Techdirt by merely mentioning Ron Paul.

But you’re wrong that the Storm gets no press. There was a lot of buzz around it pre-launch. And then it did get a lot of press, much of it bad press. It launched with software glitches that needed patching, and it just hasn’t been that popular even once patched. Bottom line, not that seminal a phone.

Same thing for Samsung Instinct, LG Prada, etc. Sure, as flagships for handset companies and carriers, they’re talked about and promoted, but they’re not good enough to be “all the rage”.

You may love your Storm, and that’s awesome. One great thing about competition and many vendors is that one man’s god phone is another man’s dud. Hopefully there’s something out there for everyone. I think youre approach is great: every 2 years, make them compete for your business!

imfaral (profile) says:

Just my thoughts

I think people are waiting to see how the phone works in the real world. Yeah you can test it and play with for a while but until a lot of people get to get it in hand and play with it for a while will we really know how the Pre really is. Everything I have read about the Pre makes it look like a solid phone, but unless people get behind it and develop applications for it, the Pre will just be another smart phone.

The other problem seems to be it’s on Sprint. Most people around me don’t really like Sprint and see it as a dying company.

Designerfx (profile) says:


I think our concern is that Palm didn’t exactly run the shop well when it came to the old palm touchscreens. So for them to have all these awesome improvements, and sounding nice per reviews, many hold their skepticism.

I’m a big phone/techie review guy myself (I’ve probably reviewed by hand 100 phones this year) and I still am waiting to see how it works from a practical perspective of the crap that reviewers didn’t do:

aka: how will it handle java, flash (or will it)? How’s the battery life under real world use, hows the bandwidth utilization, hows the battery life with features on, all the crap that hasn’t been tested. example, engadget review: “a Flash plugin is supposed to be available for the phone by the end of the year.” End of the freakin year? etc.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: well

You and I disagree in the comments often, as I recall. But I’m with you here. Testing with a few hundred journalists and analysts is definitely not the real world. The real world has many ways of @#$# things up.

So I admit I could be wrong (of course) but I’m unreservedly predicting a winner, here.

The reason I stopped hedging is that I’ve never seen such an overwhelming consensus. Usually, some of the analysts and reporters would come across more problems. This must be an unusually good device.

Anonymous12 says:

Sprint may or may not be having financial troubles, but my service with them has been very good. Very few dropped calls, and strong signals, in my experience. I also can get cell phone service where others using Verizon can’t, despite the catchy “dead zone” commercials. Just my experience. As for why the hedging, it’s exactly as the first post stated, IMHO. People want to be associated with cool, hip, now. Whatever. From the reviews I have heard, the screen is even better on the Pre than on the Iphone.
I don’t need a smart phone, as it is really a luxery item any way, but just putting in my two cents.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Hype

True. And we at Techdirt have doubted every iPhone Killer we have seen thus far (see my quotes below on supposed ‘iphone killers’). The Pre is the first device we see that stands out, just as we said the iPhone stood out before it was launched: http://www.techdirt.com/feature.php?sid=200706293

Read that link above. Not only has Techdirt debunked every pretender iPhone killer in the past two years, but we wrote two years ago that it would be years before we saw an iphone killer. That’s not just being right, that’s being very @#$ right.

With a little talent and experience, you can see the standout devices from the rabble. Some people have learned to trust our opinions, others may doubt us. That’s your call.

Below from:
“[the initial iPhone will most likely only] be surpassed by Apple itself. I tried the [Samsung] Instinct at CTIA, and while a big leap forward that would have been an awesome phone in May 2007, today it still falls short of the gold standard. The version on display (beta) was glitchy and slow to respond. I really liked the haptics, though. I’m not pointing this barb specifically at Samsung/Sprint, but other developers at the show need to understand there’s more to the iPhone than a touch screen and big, colorful, sqared icons.”

Below from: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090330/2030174313.shtml
More iPhone “killers”: We’ve seen handset vendors offer so-called iPhone Killers at every turn since June 2007. I have found almost every such claim to be unfounded over the past 2 years. I have written that a touch screen and square icons do not an iPhone Killer make. But quarter-by-quarter, the competitors’ claims get more and more credible. While HTC, Nokia, RIM, Samsung, and LG make incremental progress to matching the iconic device, I think Palm has the real bomb to drop, if they manage to get the Pre to market on time.”

Alameda says:

As a small business owner, I am dealing with a set of Dell Axim X51s (an early Windows Mobile PDA), some HP-branded PDAs with the same operating system as the Dell Axim, and a single beloved T-Mobile MDA that I think I want to die with in my casket. All of those machines work off the same mobile operating system – there is an inventory management program central to my business, which works on all of those machines.

What am I going to do with a Palm Pre? Since it runs off a different mobile OS, I can’t run the programs I need, and the software company that writes and sells my inventory program isn’t going to write new software for Android (Google’s G1 phone) or the Pre. Right now, I’m stuck with a G1 for personal use, and won’t be ordering a single G1 for business use, because the Android operating system is incompatible and untweakable for what I need.

The Palm Pre is no different, and after my highly disappointing experience with a first-generation G1, I recommend strongly that anyone considering the Pre should wait until the second generation comes out. Look at the IPHONE. Three years into it, I’ve heard only fantastic things about the latest IPHONE, and only bitching from the unhappy customers who were left holding the bag with the first generation of IPHONEs, when the second version was so much better.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“What am I going to do with a Palm Pre?”

Nothing. Stick with the WinMO devices for now. Nobody said everyone must run out and buy one.

“I’ve heard only fantastic things about the latest IPHONE, and only bitching from the unhappy customers…with the first generation of IPHONEs”

Wow. I guess that’s why it took Apple all of 74 days to sell one million iPhones http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2007/09/10iphone.html

Honestly! Are you really saying their v1 sucked and people hated it?

I may understand the confusion. Did the bitching sound a bit like this? “OMG, OMG, OMG, I love this phone. It is the greatest thing I ever owned. Bummer it can’t cut and paste, though.”

Yes, only bitching indeed. Well, Bitching, massive sales, and overwhelming praise. But bitching too.

Freedom says:

All about policies at this point...

The success of the Pre will be directly related to how Palm treats the application market. If they get control happy like Apple, then being late to the party will probably kill them. They need to be 100% open, allow un-signed/un-approved applications and while having a application store allow applications from other sources as well. They need to make their development platform free or essentially free and easily available and easy to use. They need to actively market the development community and really push for a large application presence.

It will be an extremely tough market to win – iPhone has the major hard start but Apple has major control issues (of course they see it as an asset), BlackBerry is too much of a niche player and their Exchange Support stinks (I’d personally like the slap the programmer that came up with the BES software), Windows Mobile is old and aged but a refresh is coming and if Windows 7 is any example of Microsoft’s re-focus it should be interesting, and of course Android is rocking the boat in a major way and making a lot of progress and has the unlimited funds and power of Google behind it.


Alameda says:

Re: All about policies at this point...

The open marketplace is the one saving grace of the G1/Android. Palm would do well to nurture their own marketplace, do exactly as you point out, allow and encourage the development and consumer download of off-brand apps.

At least once a day, sometimes more often, I check the G1 marketplace on my phone to see what’s new. Most of the programs are written by individuals, not megacorporations. The G1 marketplace is probably the last garage where any Joe can tinker around and come up with something new or better than what already exists. If the Pre can tap into that kind of brainpower, leaving smart people alone so they can come up with great programs that push the Pre to the limits, then I think there may be hope for Palm to survive as a company. Hopefully, they have learned from Apple’s IPHONE mistakes, their overbearing and meddlsome attitude that has discouraged innovation.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: All about policies at this point...

Agree with you both.

Palm does have some experience here. For a long time, the PalmOS had more applications designed for it than any other PDA or phone. Over 30k apps, as I recall. And very open, although they did not operate an “app store” as we envision it today. Handango somewhat fulfilled that role, as they still do.

This actually offers Palm some momentum versus being just another newcomer. Let’s see how well they leverage it. It was shocking a while back when they indicated that none of those older apps would run on the Pre. Then they announced an emulator to support the old apps. Duh!! I mean, the old apps may not be as pretty as modern apps, may not be as functional, but if you have over 30k of them, there are going to be a few dogs that can still hunt.

Dave (profile) says:

Waiting for SlingPlayer

I have a Treo 755p on Verizon. It’s a Swiss army gadget — it does everything I want it to do, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well.

But there’s one thing it will do that the Pre won’t do out of the gate — let me use SlingPlayer. I can’t get away from the office to watch UEFA Champions League matches or 1st-weekend NCAA Tournament games, so SlingPlayer is a must-have for me.

Granted, I’m also torn by the fact that I would have to switch carriers, which is a pain and will require me to pay extra to cancel my contract. Plus, Verizon is saying they’ll have the Pre in January, by which time my New Every 2 deal kicks in. And, y’know, I have to make sure I still have a job come October 1, and I probably shouldn’t be blowing cash on new gadgets between now and then…

But mostly it’s for SlingPlayer. Even though I suspect Brazil will stomp all over the USA in the Confederations Cup in two weeks, I still want to see it happen.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Waiting for SlingPlayer

“I’m also torn by the fact that I would have to switch carriers”

Well, don’t forget, Sprint has lower all-in prices, so that may end up being a money-saver.

Lots of people here hating on Sprint, right or wrong that’s what the market thinks. But the allure of lower monthlies is a strong lure.

As for Sling. Give it a bit of time. The Pre developer program is a little slow out of the starting gate…as was Apple’s for the iPhone. I’ll be as curious as you to see if Sling can be installed and used without pissing off Palm or Sprint. My guess is Palm: yes; Sprint: maybe slingers can fly under the radar.

Sarah says:

Visually, the Pre doesn’t appeal to me. Not sure why, but looks clunky (tho I haven’t seen it in person).

I hate Sprint, they f-ed me over years ago and nothing would convince me to give them another shot. I like my iPhone. Don’t loooooove it. But it’s 50x better than my last phone, an old blackberry.

I would get another one if nothing else on the market caught my eye. BUT…that “something else” would have to be much better than the iPhone, not fractionally. I have too many already purchased apps, contacts, music, photos etc to deal with the hassle of completely switching phones and networks.

Anonymous Coward says:


Verizon took the wind out of Sprint’s sales [sic] by announcing they, too would carry the Pre by year end, and AT&T is rumored to want a GSM version.

What, Sprint didn’t negotiate and “exclusive” deal on the Palm Pre like AT&T did on the iPhone? I bet AT&T is laughing their asses off at Sprint.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


Sprint didn’t have the clout to get any more than a 6 month head start.

For the iPhone, AT&T would not have had enough clout to get a multi-year exclusive, except they were willing to trade some very big concessions to Apple in exchange for the lock-in. Apple gets paid in full for the devices, gets to operate the app store, and gets a cut of service revenues. This was unprecedented. You’d better believe that hurt ATT to sign that contract (despite how good it was for them). Consider this: Verizon turned Apple down first.

jg says:

the phone came out two days ago .. hold your opinion for at least a week. what we are seeing so far, engadget:

A good number of early adopters are reporting “splotchy,” distorted, or discolored displays

We’ve also heard reports of unexpected system shutdowns that require a battery pull to resolve. We’re hearing that you can also patch this up by holding down the power button and toggling the ringer switch three times.

Text fields in the web browser don’t seem to support symbols that aren’t on the keyboard, independently verified this one, and it’s nasty — it’ll be particularly bad once the phone launches internationally

more to come .. .just wait

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

bugs? really? That never happens!




Of course, a few bugs are to be expected, but an excessive amount represents a weak device. The iPhone’s bugs proved trivial, the Blackberry Storms bugs were more serious.

I would agree that we should hold out for a week or two before judging if the device is buggy or not.

But what’s the fun of predicting a device’s success after it’s achieved it or not? That’s kinda easy.

jg says:

the phone came out two days ago .. hold your opinion for at least a week. what we are seeing so far, engadget:

A good number of early adopters are reporting “splotchy,” distorted, or discolored displays

We’ve also heard reports of unexpected system shutdowns that require a battery pull to resolve. We’re hearing that you can also patch this up by holding down the power button and toggling the ringer switch three times.

Text fields in the web browser don’t seem to support symbols that aren’t on the keyboard, independently verified this one, and it’s nasty — it’ll be particularly bad once the phone launches internationally

more to come .. .just wait

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