See, The Palm Pre Can Be Offered For Free

from the was-it-such-a-ridiculous-suggestion? dept

A little over a month ago, I suggested that Sprint and Palm were making a big mistake in not offering the Palm Pre for free (more specifically, saying that Sprint should subsidize the full price). I don't think I can recall a post where more people told me I was so totally wrong. People insisted it was the dumbest idea ever, and that it would harm the brand value of the Pre, while costing Sprint way too much money. Yet, I still stand by that claim. Sprint doesn't make money selling the phone, it makes it by getting people to sign up for at least two years of Palm Pre service -- which is on the higher end of the service scale. The Pre is not as good as the iPhone, and did very little to really stand out from the competition. So the way to get around that is to offer the device for free.

At least some people seem to agree.

The device is now being offered in the UK... exactly as I suggested: free with a two year contract. At the same time, through some tricky step following, you can actually get the device for free in the US as well. I don't see how that takes away from the prestige of the device at all. If anything, it's only going to help make it easier for some people to at least try it out as a phone.

Of course, my other big complaint with the Palm Pre -- its weak developer support still stands. Famed developer Jamie Zawinski just wrote about his absolutely ridiculous experience trying to get two simple apps available on Palm Pre phones. It's taken months, and they're still not available, even though he wants to make them available for free. Instead, as with the iPhone, the "approval" process of getting apps into the app store are positively ridiculous. I had been seriously considering getting a Palm Pre (in fact, a few months ago, I was positive I was going to get one), but without real developer support, it's just not worth it. I'll wait until a decent Android phone is available instead.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Fred McTaker (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 1:48am

    Nokia N900

    Watch for the Nokia N900 soon. Their developer base will be anyone who programs anything for Linux, and is willing to do a Hildon port for the GUI. Otherwise, Maemo isn't very different from Ubuntu.

     

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    jakerome (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 1:51am

    the nice thing about developing for the Pre is that Palm has pretty explicitly stated that they are fine with developers making their applications avaialable through other channels, the prime example being the PreCentral Homebrew store. In some ways, it's the best of both worlds as Palm is able to make sure the apps available on their branded outlet are tested to work well, yet developers and users wtill have other legitimate options to get apps onto their phone.

    BTW, sending this from my Palm Pre. I've got dozens of apps loaded from both the Palm App Catalog and the Precentral homebrew store.and I have to say, some of the homebrew apps are rough around the edges and could use a little work before hitting the mass market. It's nice to see that Palm has enabled their developers to easily support beta testing with end users.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 2:01am

      Re:

      the nice thing about developing for the Pre is that Palm has pretty explicitly stated that they are fine with developers making their applications avaialable through other channels

      Actually, if you read the jwz link above, he claims exactly the opposite. He was told he needed to make sure that all apps went only through the official Pre store.

       

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        jakerome (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:55am

        Re: Re:

        well, whatever jwz may alhave wrote about his experience several months ago, things are certainly different now. APalm exec gave his explicit blessing to the PreCentral homebrew srore. You may want to read a few of their posts on the subject to get a different point of view.

        While I'm sure jwz is being truthful, it's possible that either intentionally or otherwise he's shaded the facts to make his case more sympathetic.

         

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          David, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:01pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Blessing or not, the SDK License Agreement continues to state that ‘Applications Can Only Be Distributed Through the Palm Application Catalog’ (§4.3). jwz pointed this out in the latest update to that entry.

          I think that this restriction would make it illegal to add an app that contains someone else’s GPL’d software, since you could not distribute the source to anyone without violating Palm’s contract, and, thus, would lose the license to distribute that software altogether.

           

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        samsara (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:58am

        Re: Re:

        jwz's rant was absurd for a number of reasons, but on this one especially. Palm has all but endorsed PreCentral's homebrew market, and getting it going on the phone is dead simple. There are no restrictions on the phone at all, and no DMCA violations to worry about. Palm will certainly not call you a terrorist for using your phone as you please, either.

         

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        Derek Reed, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:06am

        Re: Re:

        Might want to read the rest of that comment Mike, or the other comments here.

        Even if final approval on their "app store" equivalent is a process, it sounds like they're very open in allowing a variety of stages of development to be deployed on a wider scale. I think this is a very valid approach. Test and Certify and have a process to have clean options available, but also allow homebrew and others without endorsing them or certifying them.

         

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        jakerome (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        Mike, check out the link to read Precentral's post on the matter. There are some more details that put jwz's issue into context.

        http://www.precentral.net/submitting-palms-app-catalog-how-difficult-it

         

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        anon, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:56pm

        Re: Re:

        NO, that is NOT what jwz says! He said they told that IF he wanted his app in the app catalog, he could no longer also have it elsewhere. That is NOT the same thing as telling him he can't offer it elsewhere. He just can't do both.

         

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    Guacamole Pal, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 2:42am

    So can you wake me when Pré/WinMobile/Android/Nokia/Sidekick or AssMunch has some marketshare?

    Until then, there's an app for anything, like food, even a desire for "burrito-boils", as it was described by an early Chipotle adopter (this is, gee, 1998 timeframe) from the UCHSC. The med student said that the "Bolis is a big thing you must concur or you die."

    So the bolis awaits at the store near you, and yes, it may be a bit beyond than you would normally drive, but prepared, and waiting for you while you're in a damned meeting.

    My only wish was that guacamole was 75¢ again. Oh how times have changed.

    But seriously, check it out. The app, which undoubtedly provides Neil MacBride with satisfaction has, and is available for iPhones and iPod touches alike. (Sorry Palm Prés.. I don't know how to invite you to this party.)

    App is available by clicking here:
    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=327228455&mt=1

    Now if I could only get Chipotle to give me some free food or get my boy Mike Ho some "Employee of The Month" treatment. That would be nice.

     

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    Rodden Shaw, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 2:47am

    Of course, almost every handset sold by a UK operator is free on certain price plans, which has been the case for quite a long time. UK price plans are, also, more expensive than those in the US, even though the infrastructure required to serve a more densley populated country is proportionally less expensive. 'Free' handsets ultimately cost consumers rather a lot and it seems to make a great deal more sense for consumers to pay the retail price for a handset and save money on their price plan. Maybe such a system could even contribute to a stabilization or decline of the rampant consumption that is causing so much waste...

     

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    cc, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 3:39am

    This sounds rather desperate if you ask me! They're giving it out for free to uphold their dying brand -- doesn't seem like they're even trying to make a profit right now.

    Similar to all the promotional offers for Windows 7, in a way. They're currently offering it to students for peanuts to pull them away from macs and back into Vista-world.

     

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      John Duncan Yoyo (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:29am

      Re:

      >Similar to all the promotional offers for Windows 7, in a >way. They're currently offering it to students for peanuts >to pull them away from macs and back into Vista-world.

      Hmm a cheap copy of 7 to run under bootcamp or virtually on my Mac. No problem there. Opens the PC world to Mac users without really having to change anything. I've got an .edu email address or two that qualifiy.

       

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      The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:18am

      Re:

      They're giving it out for free to uphold their dying brand

      Palm's dying brand? Palm sold the handsets to the carrier for a price (>free) and then the *carrier* can choose to subsidize the price of the phone.

      Palm already got their money, and probably has very little (if any) say in what the carrier offers it for.

      Thanks for playing though.

       

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    DevGuy, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 3:58am

    I'm a Developer and I definitely won't develop anything for the pre that is commercial based. html5+js for a commercial app? I don't want to expose source to everyone for something meant to be commercial, even after obfuscation techniques, not to mention performance loss with an interpreted environment. What a foolish choice by Palm.

     

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    JohnForDummies (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:23am

    "Give away the razors to sell razor blades." I've never understood how people can think that giving away a product for free (or close to free, or at least at a loss) could be a bad idea, IF the product is dependent upon other much more profitable items to be of any use. Like a support or usage contract with a mobile carrier.

     

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    Rodden (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:23am

    "This sounds rather desperate if you ask me! They're giving it out for free to uphold their dying brand -- doesn't seem like they're even trying to make a profit right now."

    Does nobody consider the market that they are referring to before commenting? Handsets are commonly offered for free in the UK. The Palm Pre is available free on the same contracts that the iPhone 3G 8GB is offered for free on, for example... Palm will be turning profit from the sale of their handsets to O2, who subesquently resell the handset for free on expensive tarrifs.

     

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    Misanthropist (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:42am

    o rly?

    The Pre is not as good as the iPhone

    Previously, when I read your ramblings on the Pre, you seemed to make it out as if it were lightyears ahead of the iPhone.

    I dismissed your entusiasm as merely a case of gadget infactuation however.

    I saw then, and see now, absolutely nothing special about this "me too" offering from Palm.

     

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:56pm

      Re: o rly?

      Twas I, not Mike, who waxed poetic on the Pre. There's more than one writer here...although Mike is prodigious.

      And I certainly didn't say it was "lightyears ahead of the iPhone". I said "Of all the phones I have seen since the iPhone came out, this is the first one that I think may be better -- and I am very fond of the iPhone". I used "may" as in remains to be seen, but is possible.

      http://www.techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20090604/1806535135.shtml

      I also said the battle would be highly dependent on the state of the Palm app store, which is obviously still the case.

      At this point, I still think device-to-device the two are comparable, with category wins going to each. But when you factor in the ecosystems around the devices, then the iPhone surges ahead.

      The Pre is hardly "me too". That is the company (Handspring/Palm) that created the category of smartphone and pushed the industry forward early in the decade. They were early with PDA/phone integration, installable apps, and early with touch screen UI.

      I don't often find myself singing the praises of Palm, but if you accuse them of me-tooing the iPhone, they you need re-education. Maybe you meant the Newton? Further, WebOS, Synergy, multi-processing are not iPhone copies. And Pre has it's own industrial design and look and feel. If you see nothing special about it, you haven't looked very hard.

      But I will grant to you that it didn't leapfrog the iPhone, so if you merely meant "me too" as "catch up" then I'm on board.

       

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    Michial Thompson, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:48am

    If you want a phone that arbitrarily wipes out your data

    If you want to wake up every morning wondering if you data is going to still be on your phone, then the Pre is for you...

    I just bought one the 9/18. Woke up on 9/29 to find a prompt that had been on the phone for some time telling me that it needed to reset and giving me an option to reset while erasing all my data or reset without losing my data. Choosing not to lose my data still resulted in it being reset to factory defaults w/ no data.

    First I have no idea how long I was without phone service over night, or how many calls I missed in the process. Second I would much rather have CHOSEN when to waste the next 4 hours on the phone rather than have it chosen for me.

    I did finally get everything back, but it cost Sprint a customer, I am waiting for my 4 numbers to be ported to AT&T and my 4 new iPhones. I had been with sprint since 1995. You think it's bad when Amazon takes an e-book offline, wait till a company arbitrarily costs you 4 hours of wasted time, and all that time leaves you wondering if your going to get your data back...

     

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      anymouse (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 12:44pm

      Re: If you want a phone that arbitrarily wipes out your data

      "You think it's bad when Amazon takes an e-book offline, wait till a company arbitrarily costs you 4 hours of wasted time, and all that time leaves you wondering if your going to get your data back..."

      When did this thread turn into a Microsoft bashing session????

       

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    Free Cars, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Not Free

    "The device is now being offered in the UK... exactly as I suggested: free with a two year contract."

    Hey Mike, I bet you could use a FREE car, right? Who couldn't? Even if you don't drive, you could take it and sell it! Well Mike, I'll give you a FREE car, just let me know what kind you'd like. Oh, you'll have to pay some "fees" and sign up for a contract on it, but it'll be a FREE car! Hurry, Mike, don't wait!

    Unless, of course, you don't think such a deal is really "free".

     

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      nasch (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 8:47am

      Re: Not Free

      You'll give me a free car in exchange for a contract to buy the gas I need to buy anyway from one particular gas station for two years? Sign me up!

       

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        Anon, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:18am

        1337

        Brilliant.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re: Not Free

        You'll give me a free car in exchange for a contract to buy the gas I need to buy anyway from one particular gas station for two years? Sign me up!

        OK, that's great! Of course, it'll be a monthly plan and I'll determine the price and how much you'll get each month with extra charges for any overages, etc.. And I'll put a lock on the gas tank and engine computer that can only be accessed at my station. But I'm one of the "good guys" and after you have completed the term of your contract I'll unlock the car. Not everyone will do that, you know!

        Now, what kind of car do you want?

         

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    Jon B. (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 6:19am

    I feel pretty much the same way. I'd even have paid $100 or so for it.

    If my decisions come down to finding the best "free" phone, then I still may go for the Pre if it's free. But yeah, I'd rather wait for a better Android phone for all those same reasons.

    Also I think I may prefer a horizontal keyboard.

     

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    Derek, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:23am

    iPhone 'free' in Germany

    Deutsche Telekom is offering the 3GS iPhone in Germany for 1 Euro, which is close enough to free.

     

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    Zerhackermann, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Masnick you need to dig a bit deeper...

    You only saw JZ's side of it without looking any deeper at all. I'm not going to do it for you but from what I discovered...there is a bit of a Prima Donna complex going on there.

    Full disclosure: I am using a Pre and have been since right about launch. I just happened to destroy my winmob smart phone and went and tried a G1 before returning for the pre. (it wasnt the G1 that turned me off, it was T-mobile) No issues. no fuss. works like a champ.

     

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    eyefony, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Palm Pre's Processor: 600 Mhz

    On the contrary, the Palm Pre is as good as the iPhone 3Gs while the iPhone 1G, 2G, 3G don't even run anywhere close to Palm Pre's 600 Mhz processor! To top that off, Palm Pre's operating system can run multiple 3rd party apps at the same time, while all iPhones lag way behind.

    The processor in the Palm Pre is not cheap and is comparable to the iPhone 3Gs's processor. Giving it away for free would be foolish. Just because UK is giving it away for free doesn't mean that they will not increase the monthly cost of their contract.

    The effort, components, and materials used to design complex devices are never given away for free unless you've never had experience running a business.

    How did you figure Jamie Zawinski would be key to provide developer support when he was not asked to provide developer support? There are already hundreds of apps developed for the Palm Pre with Palm's developer forum available to answer developer questions. Veteran computer programmers know how to hack, find solutions, and develop apps rather than rely on hand-holding support.

     

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      Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 1st, 2009 @ 10:10pm

      Re: Palm Pre's Processor: 600 Mhz

      Geez,

      There are about half a dozen comments on this post about how Mike is an idiot because he doesn't understand business or he doesn't understand that a phone costs real money and therefore shouldn't be free.

      Are you all really that simple? Do you all really think Mike is that dumb?

      The argument he makes is that the Pre should be priced at 0 (dollars, Eu, etc) in order to be more attractive to the consumer market. Whether Palm likes it or not, the iPhone is the premium product, and Pre won't sell well with price parity. Sprint, also, is not the premium network, so it needs to compete on something else.

      That said, anybody at this site should already be aware that the street price of a phone is NOT the wholesale price the OEM offers to the carrier. The carrier still pays somewhere around $400-$500 for a Pre or iPhone (they keep it confidential). The carrier then recoups their subsidy on the street price with the high monthly bills, and a 24 month locked-in subscriber contract.

      So, no. Nobody thinks the Total Cost of Ownership is free, not you, not me, and...gee whiz...Mike knows about it, too.

      But consumers are attracted by low cash outlays, and consider TCO as a lower priority. The market has proven this over and over again. Thus, if Sprint isn't winning market share, they might consider lowering their price.

      Mike advocates $0, but I would suggest more on the order of $50. That's basically painless to the target market, but still much more attractive than the iPhone price.

      BTW, check out Walmart. Got the Pre for $79.

       

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    Pauly, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 11:24am

    Doesn't anyone have patience anymore?

    Remember the first gen iphone?
    Remember the baby app store?
    Remember how long it took to get new apps approved?
    Remember waiting for three years to get cut/copy/paste?
    Remember waiting for three years to get MMS?

    Why are people so quick to persecute Palm, who clearly raised the bar in the smart phone/PDA market?

    The Pre is new, innovative, sleek, and like every other brand new phone, has a few bugs to work out, which they're doing far faster than Apple has. Cut them some slack, and stop being such iphone snobs!

    And don't forget... Palm had thousands of "apps" long before the iphone was even born!

    Play nice kids!

     

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    Xeghay, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Oh good, another blogger rehashing JWZ's childish rants. Thanks!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      Oh good, another blogger rehashing JWZ's childish rants. Thanks!

      Oh good, another corp tool cruising the blogs. Thanks!

       

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    Unknown, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 9:54pm

    There IS great developer support: homebrew apps!

    Unlike the iPhone, you can actually put any application on your Palm Pre that you want. And there's a great site (that's had 2 MILLION apps downloaded, by the way) that provides applications for your pre: www.precentral.net.

    In the long run, you'll do MUCH better with the Pre this way than an iPhone. Apple only lets you use the apps they deem fit for your phone. The Pre allows you to install (not from their app catalog) any app you desire. I'm not sure if Android allows that as well or not.

     

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    Lance, Oct 6th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    The developer is a liar or moron

    There are well over 200 free apps for the Pre and an entire site called homebrew of open source developers who do it just for the fun. Palm actually helps and encourages them. They freely distribute the SDK to enable people and developers to easily tweak and modify their Pre's. They've made no effort to prevent others from distributing over-the-air apps outside of the Palm App Store. I have around 40 installed. So the developer is a moron or a paid shill. You decide.

     

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