HP WebOS tablets, netbooks

“During a conference call about HP’s acquisition of Palm Wednesday, Todd Bradley, executive VP of HP’s Personal Systems Group, said that there are “a lot of opportunities” with the purchase. Namely, he said, HP could use the WebOS mobile operating system as a touchscreen interface for new hardware such as a tablet or netbook.

Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein and Brian Humphries, HP’s senior VP of Strategy and Corporate Development revealed that HP plans to “double down on WebOS,” which is considered the “prized asset” of the acquisition. The two reportedly mentioned the scalability of WebOS, implying that HP plans to bring the platform to multiple hardware form factors. HP even said it has already tested WebOS for its scalability.”


Oh, and someone from HP also said they will still do business with Microsoft.

Let’s see…HP is adding its own mobile OS, HTC was hunting for its own mobile OS but is living on skinning, Palm made its own mobile OS and managed to escape oblivion, Samsung launched its own mobile OS, Apple has its own mobile OS, RIM has its own mobile OS and bought the kernel of another, Microsoft has its own mobile OS–really more than one, Nokia has its own mobile OS(s), and Google has its own mobile OS (plus Chrome). Chances are that Amazon is building its own OS as well.

Only Microsoft and Google are still betting that licensing is going to be the way forward but each is hedging its bets: Microsoft with Kin and Google with Nexus One.

Can anyone seriously suggest that the mobile computing industry is rapidly moving toward horizontal modularity or even consolidating like the Operators are hoping?

Before you answer, consider also other horizontal players that are no longer with us: PalmSource, Symbian (and, give it a year, Windows Mobile).

Palm's Warning prior to HP's Acquisition

Buried in the news that HP is buying Palm is an updated lower guidance for the fourth quarter, otherwise known as a warning.

The Company expects revenues for its fourth fiscal quarter to be in the range of approximately $90 million to $100 million on a GAAP (1) and a non-GAAP basis. Revenues for the fourth fiscal quarter are being impacted by slow sales of the Company’s products, which has resulted in low order volumes from carriers. Palm also expects to close its fourth fiscal quarter with a cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments balance between $350 million and $400 million.

$90 million in revenues for an average ASP of $300 would put unit sales at 300,000 for the quarter. RIM just sold 10.4 million devices, Apple sold 8.75 million. 300k is just an astonishingly small number.

Palm Minnow is Swimming with Sharks

Palm CEO “I’ve never used an iPhone” Rubinstein quoted in the earnings conference call:

“We had an arrangement with Sprint that when we launched with Sprint that they would invest in marketing and carry the product and for that they would get an exclusive for a period of time. That really determined when we could do our launch at Verizon. I agree with your premise that if we could have launched at Verizon earlier, prior to Droid, that we would have gotten the attention that the Droid got and since I believe that we have a better product, I think we would have even done better.”

So we are led to believe Droid launched into a window in Verizon’s launch schedule. A window which was shut to Palm due to their exclusive with Sprint. It’s a matter of timing.

Then again, Droid got $100 million in advertising and marketing budget from Verizon and Motorola. It’s unlikely that Palm could leverage that kind of muscle, and their product ended up being positioned on a female demographic.

Palm was either late or under-funded or mis-positioned or all of the above.

Essentially, Palm’s problem is not the quality of the product (which is arguable) but their ability to market and distribute in a highly competitive market. In other words, it’s not that they’re not smart enough, but that they’re not strong enough.

Sadly, it’s not enough to be smart or good. They’re in the wrong market if they think having a clever product is a winning strategy. Mobile Computing is the toughest technology market today. Because the stakes are so huge, it’s a market that is targeted by enormous resources.  This is no place for start-ups.

Palm is simply too weak to make it.

Palm sell-through down 15% year-on-year

Smart phones sold to retail customers totaled 408,000 units, down 15% from a year earlier and 29% sequentially

By some estimates, Apple pre-sold more iPads online in one week than Palm sold smartphones through Sprint and Verizon stores in 3 months.  What’s more remarkable is that year-on-year decline implies Palm sold more Windows Mobile devices than WebOS which was not on the market a year ago.

link: Palm Narrows Loss but Retail Sales Decline – WSJ.com

  • The company said there are over 2,000 apps in the Palm App Catalog.
  • ASP was $367, down from $375.
  • Almost all volume was from WebOS products (Windows Mobile devices are gone)
  • For Q4, the company expects revenue to be less than $150 million.
  • Q4 gross margin likely in the mid-teens.
  • Guidance for $150 million in revenue, down 57% sequentially.

After hours market cap for Palm is about $833 million down 13%.  Expected revenue and ASP imply about 410k units will be sold into the channel in the following quarter.

Dubinsky gets it, Glaser no so much.

[Donna Dubinsky] called the decision to spin off PalmOS a “huge strategic error.” “As RIM, Apple and Palm all have demonstrated, these devices need to be highly integrated hardware and software developments in order to optimize the user experience,” Dubinsky wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “When Palm no longer could advance the OS, and had to create a new one, it lost several years.”

Donna gets it.

link: Palm Inc. teeters in crowded smart phone market – Yahoo! Finance

[Rob Glaser] said with those “super” abilities, mobile has a great potential, but if Apple gets its way, the wireless industry could end up like the MP3 industry. The other option is for things to go the way of the PC, which he considers more horizontal.

“As of today, Apple is the clear winner. It’s incredible what they’ve been able to do in a vertical paradigm,”

link: Former RealNetwork’s CEO Rob Glaser Says For Now Apple Has Won – Yahoo! Finance

Sorry Rob, you’re still missing the whole point. It’s not incredible, it’s the only way to go. What’s incredible is that anybody tried to do it differently.

Analyst: Palm at 10k Units a Week

Cusick says his checks find Palm is getting only about 1% share of handset sales at Verizon Wireless, or about 10,000 units a week, versus 400,000 units that were sold in to the company. At this rate, he says, there is “no prospect of Verizon follow-through” in the May quarter – and he sees weak sell-in at AT&T in the quarter as well. (AT&T has said plans to launch a Palm phone, but no timetable has been announced, I would add.) He sees Sprint launching other new smart phones soon, “which would reduce Palm’s share even further.”

link: Palm: Macquarie Downgrades; Cuts Target To $4, From $10 – Tech Trader Daily – Barrons.com

Stepping back into the wayback machine to read analyst commentary from 6 months prior to the launch of WebOS (June 27th, 2008):

In a report form Deutsche Bank’s (Sell rating). They noted that 38% of the shares were sold short, while 10 holders account for almost 70% of the shares outstanding.

In Deutsche Bank’s view, Palm’s future would be “entirely dependent on their new products, services and operating system,” all due next year. “If these turn out to be good, then the stock could do well,” he says. “If the new entries are not attractive, then Palm risks bankruptcy.”

Blackberry Loves U2

BlackBerry – BlackBerry Loves U2

Last year U2 chose Research in Motion as the main sponsor for its tour.

Read More: Wired.com

Blackberry might love U2 but does Bono still like Palm?

You might know Elevation for its most famous partner, U2’s Bono. In the summer of 2007, the firm committed $325 million to Palm in exchange for a 25% stake in the ailing handheld computing pioneer. By the following winter, the partners would up their investment by another $100 million.

Elevation has since sold some of its preferred stock, but according to Palm’s SEC filings, it still holds enough common and preferred shares to account for roughly 30% of the business.

Others who bought around the same time as Elevation are struggling with a 33% loss, and that’s after accounting for a $9-per-share dividend.

Read more: fool.com

Maybe Bono should pick up his Blackberry in between gigs and work on a deal between RIM and Palm.

Palm: Pacific Crest Downgrades; Merrill Cuts Target To $5; Needham Fears “Oblivion”

Palm: Pacific Crest Downgrades; Merrill Cuts Target To $5; Needham Fears “Oblivion” – Tech Trader Daily – Barrons.com

Palm unveiled the webOS and Pre on Jan. 8th, and the stock skyrocketed from $3.30/share the day before to $7.14/share on Jan. 15th.

January 2009 predictions for Palm by Morgan Keegan:

About Palm at Sprint: Storm/iPhone-type Success At Sprint For the Palm Pre Would Lead to About 630k-1mm/quarter

Our 450k/quarter Estimate For Pre Look Wholly Realistic Based On Success Of Other “Hero” Campaigns

Your correspondent, January 2009:

Now that the land grab is over, expect Bono to get his payoff as Palm gets acquired by a hardware vendor desperate for relevance. As Motorola is on its knees, my bet would be on Samsung, though a bidding war with Sony Ericsson would not be a surprise.

Now I’m not so sure. Faucette of Pacific Crest today:

While we believe that Palm could ultimately be a very attractive acquisition target, we are concerned that if the company is not prudent in maintaining balance-sheet resources, any potential acquirer may be content to just wait until things become even more desperate.