Mar 10

Palm: on that slippery slope

The industry prepares for Palm's next announcement

Last week, Palm CEO Jon Rubenstein wrote a companywide email to the troops following his announcement of Palm’s preliminary results for this quarter. Sales weren’t exactly booming.

This announcement wasn’t mandatory. It’s a strategy. It’s what a company does when they smell a really bad news day in the making, and they’d love nothing more than to diffuse it. Rather than shock us with bad results at quarterly report time, Palm went for the “preemptive let-down.”

I actually have a fond place in my heart for Palm. I was once a total Pilot guy, filling my device with “apps” (well, maybe three) and showing the thing off with iPhone-like fervor. Then again, I used to love WordPerfect too.

Point is, things change. It’s going to take one hell of an effort, and possibly divine intervention, to right Palm’s ship.

In a weird way, I enjoy reading memos like Rubenstein’s. It’s interesting to see how different leaders rise to the occasion. His mission is to paint a rosy picture in the face of obvious challenges. Ours is to read the true meaning into the words he chose:

Softer than expected performance. Mini-disaster. Excellent potential to become maxi-disaster.

Slower than expected customer adoption of our products. Make that “slower than dreamed.”

We expect to exit the quarter with $500 million in cash on our balance sheet. Paychecks won’t bounce for a while yet.

The entire executive team has been working extremely hard to improve product performance. About time.

…and have implemented a number of initiatives to increase awareness and drive sales. On a budget that’s a fraction of our competitors’.

Verizon Wireless… acknowledged that their execution … was below expectations. Thank God we have a scapegoat.

To accelerate sales, we initiated Project JumpStart nearly three weeks ago. Oh my.

Nearly two hundred Palm Brand Ambassadors… have been training Verizon sales reps across the US. Should work as well as the Apple-trained CompUSA sales force.

… a growing number of Palm ads on billboards, bus shelters, buses, and subway stations, all getting the word out. The ad guys will save us.

I am still confident that our talented team has what it takes to get the job done. The trading season is pretty much over. We got what we got.

Go team!!! Ah, motivation. The Book Of Management, Chapter 12.

Of course it’s never over till it’s over. But with Palm stuck in the shadow of iPhone, Droid, Nexus One and the whole gang of them, and app developers going where the customers are, Palm truly will require a miracle comeback.

  • ChuckO

    I gotta say when I first saw the Pre I had a horrible reaction. It looked way too much like a Palm Pilot to me which I associate with the internet bubble days. I can understand a lot of people like Ken have positive memories of those devices and Palm would probably have a tough time disowning that legacy but for me, I don’t want an such a strong visual reminder of a Palm Pilot in my pocket.