Why Palm can't be saved

Palm faces challenges that have only become tougher since its relaunch

That sound you've been hearing--that soft "swooshing" in the distance--isn't anything important. It's just the sound of Palm circling the drain. For despite having had excellent carrier support from Verizon and Sprint, as well as good products, the company has once again failed to gain any real traction in the marketplace.

Let me make this really clear: There is no reason for anyone to purchase a Palm smartphone that makes sense, save a few people who hate Apple, Android, and BlackBerry with equal passion. All three competitors are better choices than a Palm Pre Plus or Pixi Plus.

Though a sentimental favorite and hard worker, Palm faces challenges that have only become tougher since its relaunch last summer.

Now, the Wall Street Journal is out with a story that suggests the inevitableness of Palm's predicament. In the nicest way possible, it says Palm, with a mere 0.7 percent of the smartphone market, compared to 14.4 percent for Apple and Research In Motion with 20 percent, simply can't catch up.

It also includes quotes from analysts who are reducing their sales projections, devaluing the company's stock rating, and suggest the channel finds it easier to sell Palm's competitors.

If Palm ever had a real window of opportunity--and that is certainly debatable--it is closing rapidly.

As devices running Google's Android smartphone OS gain momentum, Palm simply has nowhere to turn. Tepid developer support, plus what seems like a lack of carrier attention span, leaves potential customers with few reasons to choose a Palm Pre or Pixi or, for that matter, whatever else Palm comes out with.

In retrospect, the race was really decided before Palm really got going last summer. The company had to count on competitors making mistakes for it to make inroads.

Apple, meanwhile, has jumped from strength to strength, BlackBerry has remained a winner, and though slow to catch-on, Android is clearly everyone's other choice. And many users' first choice.

I was hoping to end this piece with some helpful suggestions for Palm, but short of paying developers to create perhaps 10,000 applications this month, and next month, and every month, or getting Apple to support Palm devices in iTunes, I don't see any future where Palm survives.

The best hope is for some company that needs a smartphone to purchase Palm and go from there. I just don't know what company that would be. So, Palm will likely soldier on for another year or two. There will be new products, just no sales.

Eventually, Palm will run out of money and the flushing will be complete.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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David Coursey

PC World (US online)
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