updated 12:05 pm EDT, Mon June 8, 2009
55K Palm Pres Sold on Wknd
Palm had a relatively successful Pre launch weekend but sold just a fraction of what Apple did when it launched its device, RBC analyst Mike Abramsky noted on Monday. Early estimates suggest the initial wave of sales will float between 45,000 and 55,000 units but is likely to fall short of the 270,000 iPhones that would have traded hands in the last two days of June 2007. However, the difference is now attributed more to tight supply than to reduced demand, as many stores sold out; while larger stores often had 100 or more units, others had 50 or less. Best Buy and Radio Shack stores sometimes received as few as two units.
As many as 15,000 customers are still on waiting lists, the researcher says.
Unlike Apple's launch, where the company had no existing phone lineup and had the benefit of the then-largest US carrier to debut its phone, Palm's early customer base is believed by Abramsky to center more on existing loyalists for the carrier or the device maker than converts. About 80 to 90 percent were existing Sprint subscribers, while 60 percent were already owners of Centros, Treos or other earlier Palm phones.
A better image of the Pre's long-term success should become clear with resupplies, which in the early stages should take place every 2-3 days. Previously, Best Buy has warned it may not have regular stock until July or later, hinting at a continued shortage but also sustained demand.
RBC's analyst is conservative in his outlook and sees about 470,000 Pres selling in the first quarter of sales and 2.6 million in the first year of sales. iSuppli expects as many as 1.3 million in 2009. Abramsky cautions that Palm's performance could improve if it expands the Pre to more carriers and if the smartphone business itself grows. Additional webOS phone models could also support the company's financial health.
Both of these are heavily rumored. Britain's O2 may have a GSM version of the phone late this year, and leaks have pointed to the Palm Eos replacing the Centro at AT&T, Sprint, and possibly other carriers.