updated 02:30 pm EST, Tue November 17, 2009
Analysts see Palm at Verizon next year
Palm may prove to be Verizon's best hope if the Droid line doesn't bear fruit, Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu said in a note today. He points to contacts within the cell industry and supply chain that suggest Verizon will carry one or more of Palm's webOS phones, such as the Pre or Pixi, sometime in 2010. Sales of both the Motorola Droid and HTC's Droid Eris have purportedly been "somewhat disappointing" and may lead to Verizon using Palm to bolster its smartphone catalog.
Adoption of the smartphones could happen as early as the first half of the year as Sprint's exclusive isn't expected to last past 2009. Verizon's wireless chief Lowell McAdam has also signaled a desire to attach Palm's new devices to the network.
Wu adds that Palm has advantages that can't necessarily be matched by Android. Although Google's platform has multi-manufacturer support, Palm can directly tie software to new hardware features and supports full multi-touch where Android 2.0 only has limited recognition. Accordingly, Palm can produce a more cohesive experience even with more limited resources.
Claims of sub-par Droid sales are new and may partly contradict rough predictions that more than a quarter million have bought the Droid in its first week. While a fraction of Apple's iPhone 3GS launch numbers even in the US, the Droid is thought to have had a better launch than the Pre and T-Mobile's myTouch 3G, both of which are estimated to have moved about 60,000 units each in their opening weekends.
Barclays Capital analyst Amir Rozwadowski partly backed Wu's analysis in his own note today. He warns that demand for the Pre is "tempered" this fall and that Palm's limited recognition in Europe won't help the company but stresses that the smartphone designer is in a stable position with little immediate risk. Rozwadowski also expects Palm to reach Verizon and says it could be a "critical part" of the company's strategy to branch out to Verizon, possibly with a launch for the Pre in February.