Is Nova Palm's Prince Charming?

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This week's first fairytale, a boast tinged with PR-inspired predictions, comes from no other than Palm -- the forgotten little brother of the smartphone industry. In a BusinessWeek article posted early today, Jon Rubinstein, Palm's executive chairman, talks about his company's upcoming mobile phone operating system and how he sees Palm postioned in the smartphone market.

In advance of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2009, Rubinstein describes the upcoming Palm devices as "products that bridge the gap between Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry devices, oriented to work and e-mail, and Apple's iPhone, oriented to fun." But that's only the beginning of Rubinstein's bedtime story for Palm's angry investors, who have seen the company's market share going further down this year.

Rubinstein, who helped develop products such as the iMac and the iPod for Apple, implies in his BusinessWeek interview that the Nova platform (Palm's long promised and not yet delivered OS) will not only be an OS for Palm's smartphones, but also for e-book readers and mobile game consoles. So far, this sounds to me like another Foleo fiasco. But the most interesting part of Rubinstein's interview is where he gives us his sparkly view on Palm's future positioning on the smartphone market.

Palm's executive chairman believes "over time, the iPhone will be the device of choice for the 10 percent of cell phone users interested primarily in mobile movies and other professionally produced fare. BlackBerry will remain the go-to phone for people interested in basic communications and so RIM will command greater share in the long term." As for Palm, Rubinstein believes "two percent would be just fine."

Well, I have a newsflash for you, Palm: according to some of the latest market figures, you are already under the "Others" category - and we all know what that means. The rest of the deal is as one would expect: Nokia is the leader worldwide, while in the U.S., RIM and Apple (and, perhaps soon, Google's G1 phone) battle closely for the first place.

Besides saying that Nova will make "smarter use of data about you," Rubinstein didn't give out much else about the new OS or the upcoming release announced for CES 2009 (invitation pictured above). With an Apple-like secrecy, Palm has kept under wraps the Nova OS for over a year now (and now expected mid-2009), leaving everybody wondering where the former smartphone innovator will go next. But until I have in my hands a brand-new Nova-rocking shiny Palm, I won't be convinced of any of Palm's dreamed-about, gap-bridging products. It's time to stop teasing and start delivering.

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