RealTime IT News

Pondering Palm's Pre Prep Plans

As reports circulate suggesting that electronics retailer Best Buy will get a limited supply of Palm Pre units June 7, one industry analyst weighs in on Palm's launch strategy. Based on the limited information at hand, he says Palm needs to focus on capturing Sprint customers -- and on apps.

It's not clear if June 7 would be the launch date or simply a limited release, as 4,500 Pre models are on tap to be distributed evenly to each Best Buy store selling mobile devices, according to the blog Boy Genius Report.

Speculation is running rampant on the Web over details regarding the Palm Pre and the embattled company's new mobile platform webOS due to three factors. First, there's intense competition in the smartphone market, as nearly every major handset maker is introducing signature models this summer.

Second, Palm's fate relies on the do-or-die Pre and early impressions are positive, generating buzz that it could be an 'iPhone killer.'

Finally, Palm and Sprint have released scant information on the launch details. Keeping the public guessing usually works in building buzz.

What Palm is saying is that the Palm Pre is set to ship in the first half of the year by Sprint. This is prompting speculation by industry watchers that Palm may roll out the Pre in May to avoid overlapping with the highly anticipated release of any new iPhones, rumored to be unveiled between June 8 and 12 at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.

"It would be silly to compete head on with Apple in the press. Why stir up a hornets' nest? Palm should make sure they do a good job at Sprint and capture all the customers they can. Apple isn't there and so they should not be a concern. If Palm does well at Sprint, it will get developers and more operators to support them," Ken Dulaney, mobile analyst at Gartner, told InternetNews.com.

Meanwhile, regardless of the actual launch date, if reports are true, new customers with a two-year contract, would pay $199.99 for the Pre, while existing customer upgrades would cost $299, close to the basic Apple iPhone model price tag of $199. But is that competitive enough to entice customers who may not necessarily be Palm fans?

Dulaney thinks so, but with caveats. "Sure it will, but at Sprint only. Customers are only going to consider Sprint if they have a relationship with Sprint for now. Palm has to make sure they execute at Sprint. Once they do, if there are no bugs and there are satisfied users, then developers will come and more operators will want them. Focus, focus, focus," he said.

Next page: More Pre models in the works?