Palm: We coulda been a contender

In Greek tragedy, the flaw of hubris was the decisive plot point that brought down many great men. Palm, then, is the Oedipus of a modern tragedy, their efforts to rebuild hampered by a failure to see past their own greatness and a refusal to enter the market on the market’s terms.

To be honest, I was a Palm fan, then I wasn’t a Palm fan, and now am part of the chorus of voices bemoaning the lowly state to which the company has been thrust. Palm recently reported $349 million in revenue with a third quarter loss of $102.8 million. Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein said:

“If we could have launched at Verizon prior to the Droid, I think we would have gotten the attention the Droid got. And since I believe we have a better product, I think we could have even done better.”

That’s right: when the going gets rough, blame outside forces. Palm had a huge build-up at CES when the Palm Pre was first announced and now they’re taking a page from Apple’s playbook and boosting the Pre and Pixi Plus devices with some memory and processing power. Sadly, what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander, especially when the gander is losing profits. Palm shipped 960,000 units last quarter and, as Giz points out, sold 400,000 of them. Someone is buying Palm handsets, but 400,000 isn’t a big number.

Palm needs to sell itself. Their IP is strong and their brand is strong and well-known. Someone like HTC could take Palm and run with it, bringing Palm’s social-media connected OS to a whole new set of consumers. But things need to change and quickly.