By opening up app development and marketing the heck out of its phones, Palm's hoping to turn the ship around next year and stop losing money. High on the priority list is to greatly expand the WebOS app store beyond its current count, which is more than 800. Palm also wants people to understand why its Pre and Pixi phones are better than the competition.
I've got my doubts that Palm can make this work, so here are some questions on how the company's plans for 2010 will go down:
Will We See Attack Ads?
Launching an all-out war against the market leader worked well enough for Verizon Wireless, but is Palm -- and by extension Sprint -- capable of doing the same thing? I agree with Palm CEO and Chairman Jon Rubinstein that Palm must make a better case for the Pre and Pixi in marketing, but the company has to be careful. Verizon's anti-iPhone ads worked because the carrier had a hot product on its hands. Sprint doesn't have that luxury.
Will Palm and Sprint Drop Prices?
It's no secret that you can get a Palm Pre for $80 and a Palm Pixi for $25 through Amazon. Yet when you buy direct from Sprint, the same phones cost $150 and $100, respectively. The discrepancy is silly for two reasons: Palm and Sprint can't advertise the lower prices in the aforementioned marketing push, and it makes them look like they're just trying to bilk customers who don't know any better.
What is the Approval Process Look Like?
Presently, Palm's App Catalog is only open to a select group of developers, resulting in a limited number of apps. But Rubinstein said the WebOS software development kit has been downloaded "tens of thousands" of times, paving the way for exponential App Catalog growth. When the floodgates open, how will Palm deal with all those new apps? It's not clear whether there will be any barrier between development and addition to the catalog.
What's the Incentive For Developers?
I think I know Palm's answer to this question. The planned Ares tool is supposed to make Web development easy. Also, Palm Pre users were fairly active after the phone's launch, downloading over 1 million applications in 18 days. The App Catalog itself is also well-organized and easy to use, so the potential is there. But developers go where the customers are, and I'm still not clear on how there's enough business in the App Catalog to make it more worthwhile to developers than the Android Market or iPhone App Store.
Will the Pre and Pixi Stick With Sprint?
There was a time when Verizon Wireless wasn't shy about its desire for the Palm Pre, but those plans have reportedly soured, and it's hard to see the carrier picking up Palm's phones in light of its love-in with Google. Unlike the iPhone and AT&T, the Palm Pre has failed to draw people to Sprint, as originally intended. Even Sprint is moving on, with new "Now Network" commercials that tout other phones in addition to the Pre. If Palm wants to sell more Pres and Pixis, they need to be available elsewhere.