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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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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.

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