Palm and WebOS – Is This the Strategy?

I was giving some thought to what Palm’s strategy might look like, and I came up with this version. Please note that this is just my opinion. There’s of course a great chance that I’m totally off-base, and I have absolutely no inside information.

That said, Palm’s strategy so far might look something like this:

1. Develop and release a device that was advanced enough and innovative enough to attract the market’s interest, but that was feasible given the company’s limited resources. This device was the Pre. Follow this up with a device that’s lower-cost, simpler to manufacture, and appeals to a broader base of potential customers. That was the Pixi. Provide a next-generation operating system that is innovative and highly usable, even if somewhat limited in functionality at the outset.

In short, sell a device that is basically functional and a pleasure to use, understanding full well that it needs further development to be fully competitive with more established devices by much larger manufacturers with vastly superior financial resources.

2. Release both devices first on Sprint, a carrier that would provide Palm with better financial terms, that had no strong competing devices, and that would not try to dictate the technological direction of the device. AT&T and Verizon would have been bad choices by these standards. Once the platform is more established, release on other carriers to grow the market.

3. Provide a simple yet relatively powerful development environment that leverages current trends in Web technology and the thousands of developers who already utilize HTML/CSS/JS. In the background, “secretly,” if you will, develop a more native SDK that provides deeper access to the hardware, including the GPU. Or, utilize emerging technologies like WebGL to provide the same capabilities while leveraging the overall simplicity of the SDK. In the meantime, give deeper access to developers as necessary, such as to the makers of Classic in providing a bridge for previous PalmOS users.

4. Generate sufficient capital to stay in business while continuing to make progress in advancing the platform. Only release features and functionality when they work well, e.g., don’t release video recording until the required GPU support is available.

5. Once the needed hardware support is available, release missing features in a very public fashion at a major industry event, such as CES. This would be one year after announcing WebOS and the Pre, demonstrating that Palm remains a viable and innovative player and thus attracting further capital for continued improvements and growth.

I believe that we’ll see the culmination of the first stage of this strategy at CES, when Palm releases Flash support (with Adobe), video recording, voice recording, and GPU-enabled games. And, we’ll hear about a future WebOS release that provides full GPU support for the UI, which will make WebOS not only the most elegant, user-friendly, and productive mobile OS, but also the most efficient and highest performing.

On the applications front, there will be two different environments: Ares for quick and easy app development by a much wider range of developers, along with a hardcore, more “native” SDK for a more traditional core of developers. This will result in a far larger group of developers capable of writing applications for WebOS than for any other platform–you won’t have to be well-versed in Objective-C and Java, but if you are that kind of developer you’ll be able to write applications for WebOS. An alternative theory is that all development will indeed be through Mojo, but will utilize libraries via WebGL and other technologies for better performance and deeper capabilities.

Palm will also make it much easier for developers to release applications, by providing the ability to submit an app and get a link that a developer can put on their own Web site for distribution. In other words, developers won’t be limited to selling their apps in the App Catalog according to Palm’s standards. This is a huge differentiating feature from Apple and perhaps Android as well.

Personally, I think this (or something like it) is a winning strategy, and Palm seems to be doing a pretty good job so far at implementing it. 2010 will be an important year for Palm–get things right, and they’ll be positioned for some significant success in the coming decade. Get it wrong, and they may not exist as an independent company by the end of the year. It should be clear which scenario this blog is rooting for.


  1. I love this article. It kinda wants to make me invest in palm before CES this year. what are your thoughts on this?

    • I’ve been debating this myself. Palm’s at about $10/share, and if they do really well at CES they could go to $20 easily, I think. Of course, I’m still kicking myself for not buying a whole bunch of shares when they were at $1.50.


  1. [...] this means, except to say that it bodes well for future app development. This correlates well with my previous post on Palm’s strategy, and if true might explain why a number of business and gaming apps have yet to be ported to the [...]

  2. [...] like my predictions for CES and my estimate of Palm’s strategy were spot on (not to pat myself on the back, of course). Lots and lots of information to digest, [...]

  3. [...] this means, except to say that it bodes well for future app development. This correlates well with my previous post on Palm’s strategy, and if true might explain why a number of business and gaming apps have yet to be ported to the [...]

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