It’s always sad when you see an animal struggling for its life and you know you can’t do anything to save it. That’s kind of how I feel when I look at Palm. It’s almost as if its an ancient sabertooth tiger that has fallen into the tar pits, and although it is struggling to save itself, everyone who sees it knows that it is doomed.
At one time Palm was king of the hill when it came to PDAs (personal digital assistants), and then it had quite a bit of success with its line of Treo phones, but at some point it got lazy and let all of the other manufacturers bypass it on the way to bigger and better things. It started trying to play catch up with those other guys like Apple and Google, and you would have thought if any company could, it would be Palm, but just too many things went wrong.
It partnered with Sprint for the launch of the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi, and while that is no slam on Sprint, they simply don’t have the number of subscribers Verizon does. Then you add in the creepy girl commercials that did absolutely nothing to explain the phones, and consumers just simply weren’t interested in the phones. Despite the fact that WebOS has received some great reviews, consumers just aren’t that interested.
Palm then entered a Catch-22 situation: Lack of customers leads to developers not wanting to build apps for the phone, lack of apps leads to customers buying other phones.
Although it is a classic “chicken/egg” situation, there is no denying that apps do help sell a phone. Without a large selection of apps (the WebOS apps were only at about 1,000 earlier this year compared to Apple’s 160,000 and Androids approximate 20 – 30,000), consumers just aren’t flocking to the phone, and now the company is having to help carriers move as much stock as possible because there is a glut of supply.
With the news now that Palm is up for sale, the future of WebOS is even more uncertain. If the buyer would keep WebOS going would totally depend on who ends up buying Palm. Some potential buyers need an OS, some don’t, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the program shelved for good, never to be heard from again.
Unless the world of smartphones implodes tomorrow, leaving Palm as the only survivor, it seems like only a matter of time before the critically acclaimed operating system is just a footnote in the history of smartphones.