There was plenty of hype around the launch of the Palm Pre, which by all accounts is a pretty damn good phone (I've played around with it, and like it). However, Palm and Sprint made two huge mistakes in marketing it. First, they didn't have a really well-developed developer community building apps for it, so the app store is pretty weak. Apple did this with the iPhone when it launched (and we dinged them at the time as well), but Apple got away with it for two reasons: Apple is leading the field in such smartphones, and it's Apple
, who seems able to bring developers to the table with cultish enthusiasm and loyalty.
Palm doesn't quite have that.
If the problem was that the SDK wasn't ready, Sprint and Palm should have waited. Launching before the phone was really ready was a mistake, and the company may be paying for it with rather weak sales after an initial burst. However, one analyst has a suggestion that I think makes a lot of sense, saying that Sprint should drop the price of the Palm Pre to $0.99
. Basically, let Sprint subsidize more of the phone -- which it would easily make back in service fees (since the phone requires a two year contract with its most expensive data plan). Pricing the phone at $199 makes it a direct comparison to the iPhone, and that's the last
thing that Palm or Sprint should want. But dropping the price to $1 (or, hell, give the damn phone away for free
with a two year plan), would get it a lot of attention, and give people a real
reason to switch away from other carriers or other phones, and give the Pre a shot. Trying to compete with the iPhone by just saying "but we're better" doesn't work. Rather than spending tons of money on creepy TV commercials that make no sense
, why not use that ad budget to subsidize the phone in a way that really builds up a lot of attention and serious buyers? If Sprint did that, I'd go sign up for a Palm Pre that very day.