Thursday, May 21, 2009

Palm, Sprint- Goodwill, Badwill

No, this isn't yet another speculation post on whether the Pre can save Palm; that's been debated on to death. This is about creating goodwill among your core audience, and I have to say that between Palm and Sprint, they are not doing a great job at that.
I was as excited as the next person when Palm announced the Pre- not just at the possibility of a company really innovating and creating something new in these jaded times, but because I remember when the Treo 180 launched, and how it totally changed the game at the time. Just about everyone was really rooting for the Pre to be a runaway success...

But a few signs came early on that it wouldn't just be a smooth sail to the finish line. First of all, after announcing the Pre, Palm remained extremely close-fisted about giving vital information about when it could be expected and the pricing model. The fact that several different dates were given to reputable news sources under NDA means that they either purposely wanted to create a flurry of chaos, or that the device did not launch when it was originally meant to. On a recent episode of CNET's BuzzOutLoud, Natali Delconte revealed that the date she had been given was May 11th which was over a month off the date we've now been officially given.

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Another pertinent fact is how Palm picked who would get to handle the device. During many demonstrations of the Pre, it was noted that people weren't even allowed to handle the device with a Palm rep maintaining a grip on it. Yet, somehow we've seen some celebrities in the wild with a Pre (Eliza Dushku, et al), as well as seemingly random people just having a day in the park with it. Its not a good idea to create an elitist environment like that, and alienate the very people you hope to get good press from shortly.

Next was the unceremonious firing of some Sprint employees for talking about the Palm Pre. I know they signed an NDA and all, but seriously? In these hard economic times, I can't imagine that I won't be thinking about the families of those fired employees every time I see the Pre. And I know some might argue that they brought it upon themselves, but considering that in spite of whatever the employees may have said we are just as clueless about the Pre- its way harsh.

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So now the Pre has finally been announced with a release date of June 6th at a price of $199- but that price is only if you mail in your Sprint rebate and wait 6-8 weeks for your $100 check, or go to Best Buy to make your purchase. And you can't even bank on taht, because Dan Hesse has now been quoted as saying that he anticipates there will be unit shortages. Really? Because last I checked, neither Palm nor Sprint are in the position to play cute games like this. If I'm the target audience for the Pre and know all the things that we now know (see points earlier), then the last thing I want to hear is that I might not be able to get a unit after going to the store.

With no comment on the actual unit, I will say that Palm and Sprint have made some less than savvy decisions with the launch of the Pre. Lets hope the worst is behind us.

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