Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Palm's does it again, unveils Pixi before Apple’s big day

While the Pixi isn’t likely to overshadow the buzz of Apple’s press event this afternoon, Palm is showing that it does indeed have the moxie (the audacity, if you will) to stand up to the big dogs. If you’ll think back just three months to the launch of the Pre, where Palm showed it had the balls to launch two days before the world knew Apple would unveil the new iPhone. Apple is expected today to show off their latest iPod line, while most eyes will be waiting to see if Steve Jobs and his patented Reality Distortion Field will be making an appearance, Palm’s going to be standing at the sidelines waving two Pixi phones over their head screaming “Look at me!” And the media will look, as they like nothing more than to compare to the iPhone.

Now, Palm and Apple aren’t going to be the only ones making noise today. The long awaited complete digital remastering of The Beatles’ albums will be released today. Also hitting the scene will be The Beatles: Rock Band, possibly the most anticipated release of Rock Band to date.

As I said above, it’s only been three months since Palm launched the Pre, also on Sprint. Since then they’ve launched the Pre on Bell Mobility in Canada and announced a partnership with O2 to carry the Pre in Europe. While these wouldn’t be notable accomplishments for a company of Apple’s size (35,000 employees and $32 billion revenue for 2008), it’s quite audacious for Palm. With just 1,000 employees, Palm is small potatoes in the smartphone market, especially when you consider that in 2009 Palm lost $739 million just trying to stay afloat.

The rapid fire pace of releases has several advantages for Palm. Firstly, it allows them to have an expanded product portfolio. This means that there will be more than one webOS device on the shelves in Sprint stores, as well as gives carriers different options for which phone they want to carry (look at RIM’s prolific BlackBerry line for evidence of how well this works).

By putting out a new device so soon, especially one that is visibly quite different than the Pre, Palm is setting themselves up in the public’s eye as being able to produce notably different devices, even if they are notably similar on the inside. By spitting out a lower-tier device like the Pixi, Palm is also opening up a new front in their war to regain their place as a top-tier smartphone provider. By unveiling the Pixi so soon after the Pre, Palm is staying fresh in the eyes of the media and consumers and may be able to capture the attention of consumers who were interested in the Pre, but turned off by the styling or price.