Apple iPhone vs. Palm Pre: They Both Lose
Monday's iPhone 3G S announcement was a bit of an anticlimax, and certainly contained no surprises. I mean, a compass app getting top billing? Even the $99 entry-level model was expected. Lots of little incremental enhancements here, though, making a fine product even better, sure, but not enough to do much more than accomplish the most important task at hand: deflect attention from what may be the biggest competitor to date, this being the competitor that just started shipping a couple of days ago. Mission accomplished, Apple, although with a lot of help from said competitor.
What's really interesting in the 3G S announcement is the fact that Palm made so many errors in their own introduction of the Pre. Pre-announcing (so to speak), letting a full description of the cat out of the bag far in advance of actually being able to ship the cat, as I've said before, is never a good idea. All this does is to tip off the competition, and Apple, conveniently enough through the World Wide Developers Conference venue that Palm should have know about when they set the Pre's ship date, stole a lot of thunder from Palm without even trying very hard. Now, to be sure, the Pre is no iPhone killer, and, again, there is no such thing regardless. But Palm could have played this much better, especially since they are operating from a position of serious disadvantage WRT marketing, applications, presence, aura, applications, and vibe. Oh, and applications. Sure, no one really knows what all of those 50,000 iPhone apps really do, and I'll bet almost all of them are fairly useless - except that bulk is clearly good for much more than one's digestive tract.
I think, though, that the real purpose behind Palm's pre-announcement strategy was short-term financial gain. Checked their stock price lately? It's up by a factor of six this year. Apple, on the other hand is up only a mere 40% or so. So it's possible, if you ignore everything except that which really matters, that I'm very wrong here.
But I still don't think I am. The Pre will be Sprint's (and those guys are, after all, in serious need of a boost, even though their stock has more than doubled this year) iPhone, and perhaps Verizon's as well, assuming the latter can't snag the iPhone, which I still think they will. AT&T didn't win any points at the Apple announcement, what with no tethering, no MMS, etc. The Pre will do well, but it won't match the iPhone in unit sales, applications, aura, or in any other meaningful dimension. Regardless, there will be many additional iPhone killers announced over the next couple of years - but, like the Pre, none of them will actually get the job done.