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There's hope for Palm yet, says Palm CEO and former iPod co-inventor Jon Rubinstein.  (Source: Erictric)
Aggressive pricing and cash reserves will guide Palm through a troubled time, thinks CEO Rubinstein

Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein was once the hottest executive at Apple, co-inventing the iPod, Apple's bestselling product of the last decade.  Now he leads a troubled competitor to Apple in the mobile devices sphere and much of the glamor that surrounded the top executive has vanished.  

Palm is struggling.  Its smartphones are selling poorly and it just slipped to fourth place behind a charging Google, an ever-present Apple, and heavily entrenched market leader Research In Motion.  Palm has a warehouse full of unsold phones and it will likely take up to a year to move the back inventory.  By then the phones will have to be sold at a fraction of their production cost as the technology will be dated.  

Still, Rubenstein is optimistic.  In an interview with 
Fortune's BrainStorm Tech, he states, "Clearly we've hit a speed bump. No question about it. It’s really disappointing, and it's frustrating. But, the company has tremendous assets.  We've got a great team we've built over the last couple of years.  Remember this whole thing was a transformation story.  It  wasn't like we took something that was working and didn't run it well.  We started off with a company that had no future, and we have been transforming it. We have arguably the best mobile operating system out there. It’s clearly the easiest to use and has the most intuitive user interface. We've got good products that get critical acclaim.  It's in its early stages still, but we've got great quality of apps, and new apps coming all the time.  By the time you get this published, we'll have commerce going in Europe, which is a big milestone for us.  We've got good relationships with carriers."

He adds, "We do have $590 million in the bank, and we have a plan that carries this company forward. Now, we need to be frugal and we need to invest in those areas that have the best return for us, but when I read that we're going out of business or our stock is worth zero or those kinds of things, it defies logic to me."

He takes the blame for the company's shortcomings -- hardware problems with the initial Sprint deployment of the Palm Pre and lack of training for Verizon salespeople for the winter's Palm Pre Plus rollout.  But he says he and his staff have learned from those mistakes.

He says that he's not afraid of Apple's larger app catalog.  He states, "I mean, if you look at the long tail of the 150,000 or 180,000, or whatever number Apple has got these days, it's an amazing number. The reality is that it's the first thousand or so that matter and the rest of it is long tail...Now, that doesn't mean there aren’t specialty apps that people want. But there's also a lot of junk out there."

He says that the company's big price cuts -- Buy One Get One offers for Verizon and the new pricing: $49.99 for a Palm Pre Plus with new 2 year contract, and $29.99 for the Palm Pixi Plus with new 2 year contract should boost sales.

And he reminds all the Palm doubters out there, "When I got to Apple the company was dying. We brought out the iMac, and the company was really successful, and then the economy cratered, and we went through a major dip, which took like two years to dig our way out of.  And during that time period we invested very heavily in R&D and Wall Street was very unhappy with us, because the numbers looked ugly.  But then when the economy turned, we had a bunch of really cool products ready to go, the iPod being one of them, and the company quickly scaled up to the point where the economics just made sense."

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Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By Chadder007 on 4/9/2010 6:54:10 PM , Rating: 5
I love the WebOS, I just don't like either form factor. I would rather see a wide keyboard slide out offered.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By n00bxqb on 4/9/2010 9:38:00 PM , Rating: 3
I don't really have any problem with it and I can text with one hand, so I don't have to put my coffee down :) You can also get an on-screen keyboard if you want a wider keyboard ...

WebOS is great. Best phone OS on the market, IMO.

I love my Pre.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By bplewis24 on 4/9/2010 11:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that WebOS could very well be the best OS on the market (and this is coming from a Droid owner, who loves the freedom of Android).


RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By Jeffk464 on 4/10/2010 12:22:43 PM , Rating: 3
I think the open aspect is one hell of a selling point, even if the user interface isn't as good.

By agent2099 on 4/10/2010 11:44:09 AM , Rating: 2
Webos is awesome. Palm just needs to come out with more powerful hardware.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By Jeffk464 on 4/10/2010 12:20:13 PM , Rating: 2
I might have to get on. I'm on Verizon and having a phone that serves as a 3G wifi hotspot for $30 is pretty hard to ignore. That being said I would rather have an android phone that would do the same thing, but for some reason verizon isn't allowing it.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By lagitup on 4/10/2010 1:26:52 PM , Rating: 2
I had an original Pre for about a month, I just couldn't STAND the keyboard. It was painful for me to type on, so I traded it for a Samsung Moment which I hate with a violent passion because it isn't a Pre and it doesn't have WebOS, but the keyboard makes it worth it.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By Alexvrb on 4/10/2010 5:48:57 PM , Rating: 3
If the Pre had a bigger brother with a 3.7" screen and a wider slide out keyboard, I'd be using it right now.

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By MrFord on 4/12/2010 10:08:25 AM , Rating: 3
Coming from a Blackberry, it does feel a bit small to type on. On the other hand, then size makes it easier to carry around, and most important, to use as a phone. Perfectly sized, especially with the keyboard out, and to me, that was a huge plus compared to a Blackberry, which feels like holding a hard drive up to your hear...

The wait was long, way too long for us Verizon customers tho. I understand the deal with Sprint, but I think they lost a good deal of sales that way, because by the time the Pre Plus came out on VZ, the buzz was pretty much dead. And you couldn't count on VZ sales people to inform you. Most of those I talked to, either in store or business reps, didn't have a clue about the product, and even by October of last year, were saying that the Pre Plus would probably not even come out at all. Good thing I waited... And even after the phone was out, they kept pushing their Droid. I hate the Droid form factor and the keyboard, but still I almost went that way after waiting for that long.

I definitely think the wait was well worth it, and even from a BB 8830, it felt like moving forward 5 years. They phone could be a little more solid, but it's a big step from the original. The OS is great, couple slowdowns and bugs here and there but nothing an update can't fix.

Yes the keyboard is small, but the feel is very good for the size, and much more logical than a Blackberry (why wouldn't you have a direct key for @ and . on a corporate device?!).

Plus you have Preware. Nuff said!

RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By Suntan on 4/12/2010 12:57:25 PM , Rating: 3
I recently took the bait with the $50 verizon Pre+ offer (free after NE2.)

The keyboard could be a little bigger, but I still prefer it to an onscreen one.

The hardware and WebOS may be lacking for e-nerds that want a mini-quadcore in their pocket to do *everything* with, but as an actual phone that accesses the internet and other capabilities I think it hits a great combination of power and size. It actually sits in your pocket without looking like you have a hardcover book down your pants.

Personally, if you have it in your mind that you need a *computer* OS on your phone, Andriod is probably a better option. If you want a phone with a lot of flexibility and strong phone multi-tasking capabilities, WebOS is quite impressive.

Ultimately though, Verizon network and free mobile Hot Spot are what sold it for me.


RE: Tried a Pre plus for a bit....
By enlil242 on 4/12/2010 8:20:01 PM , Rating: 3
Ultimately though, Verizon network and free mobile Hot Spot are what sold it for me.


Same here... Plus I did not realize this, but I get a 13% corporate discount on voice and data. Also, to now be a walking hotspot for any device I might be carrying (iPod Touch, netbook, HP Slate, etc) Now that's golden...

best smartphone ever
By johnsonx on 4/10/2010 12:25:29 PM , Rating: 3
I've only had my Pre Plus for a few days, but so far it seems nearly magical. It does all the same tricks as the iPhones I've played with. The app cattalog is a little sparse though, but getting better. I'm really eager now to play with the homebrew apps and tweaks at Want to change some of the Pre's core functionality? There's a patch for that, and Palm won't suggest you're a National Security threat for doing it.

RE: best smartphone ever
By bigboxes on 4/10/2010 9:41:50 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. I've had the Pre since last July and, for the most part, love it. It has it's shortcomings, but I just used many of the homebrew methods to hack it last week. Plus, I overclocked the processor from 500MHz to 800MHz and it's a lot more zippy. Personally, I love the keyboard. I don't have fat fingers so I can get by. The tradeoff is that it's much more portable than a bigger device. I also don't have dropped calls left and right like my iPhone owning friends. I'd like to see an update or new model that was a tad less plasticky, a little bigger screen, a better battery, 4G (WiMAX) and include many of the tweaks that the homebrew patches provide. Do that and Palm will get many repeat customers.

RE: best smartphone ever
By bigboxes on 4/10/2010 9:47:17 PM , Rating: 2
I forgot a couple of pet peeves that I'd like fixed. The Pre is in desperate need of voice dialing and a speed dialer (should be built into the regular dialer between the voicemail and the call history button). Like all phones they should improve the sensor of the camera (more megapixels is not the answer).

RE: best smartphone ever
By n00bxqb on 4/10/2010 10:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
There are apps for both those functions (speed dialer and voice dialing) on the Pre ...

RE: best smartphone ever
By bigboxes on 4/11/2010 12:48:43 AM , Rating: 2
I've got a quick contact dialer app, but I'd like it to be embedded into the Pre. What is the voice dialing app?

RE: best smartphone ever
By n00bxqb on 4/11/2010 3:59:13 AM , Rating: 2
There's gDialer, which is no longer supported by the developer (or available on the app store), but you can get it through the Homebrew app store on

I'm sure there are a few other ones, but I haven't really looked too hard for a voice dialing app.

RE: best smartphone ever
By bigboxes on 4/11/2010 12:36:41 PM , Rating: 2
Well, you said there was a voice dialing app. I have never seen one. I used to use gDial Pro (until they wanted me to pay for it), but that was just a front end for Google Voice which is not voice dialing.

Smartphone market share
By themaster08 on 4/11/2010 2:05:25 AM , Rating: 4
Its smartphones are selling poorly and it just slipped to fourth place behind a charging Google, an ever-present Apple, and heavily entrenched market leader Research In Motion.

There's something I'd like you to see, Mick:-

Whilst it might not be big in the US, Symbian is very much the market leader. Most of your articles go on as though it doesn't exist! Cut this bullcrap.

On another note, I wish Palm all the luck in the world. I agree that it is the most intuitive and easy to use UI. Between the Pre and iPhone I'd pick the Pre any day. I don't know if it's just me, but the UI is just so inviting.

In my opinion, Palm needs to put out more devices, find a way of attracting more devs, aggressively price, aggressively advertise and make WebOS known. It's such a shame to see an excellent OS going to waste.

RE: Smartphone market share
By Suntan on 4/12/2010 1:02:59 PM , Rating: 2
I think that is what they are doing.

A $50 pre with free mobile hotspot is likely going to get some new customers (it got me.) Now they/we are out talking about how we like the phone that few people even realized is an alternative to the iPhone.


By ilnewsome on 4/9/2010 9:32:22 PM , Rating: 3
The Palm WebOS is awesome! Sorry that the Sprint release wasn't as stable on the hardware end. It's worth having Sprint replace them for free though!

i enjoy my Palm Pre, I was an early adopter. Traded in AT&T and the iPhone for one, and I haven't been sorry I agree that the apps you find in the app store are mostly regurgitated garbage that you just see 50 forms of viewing stocks, 90 ways to search Google, 100 ways to listen to the same online radio stations, an app that makes a mario sound when you jump, and just other ridiculous stuff. Or you can have the App Catalogue which is pure, simple, and not riddled with garbage.

Long live the WebOS and all it's iterations.

More Ads
By eirruby on 4/10/2010 3:28:28 PM , Rating: 2
Palm should push more on their ads there are these consumers that can't afford to buy iPhones, android and blackberry palm is a good smartphones also they can increase sales if they lowered a bit of their price.

Economies of Scale
By raghavny80 on 4/12/2010 7:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
Release a GSM unlocked version priced between 300-400$ available internationally and Jon will get his economies of scale. The american model of first choosing a wireless provider and selecting a phone afterward is not going to work for Pre.

"We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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