Sprint, Palm Offer a Few Tidbits on Pre

On the face of it, the tie-in between Sprint and Palm for the upcoming Palm Pre brings to mind two drowning men hanging on to each other for dear life in a rough sea.

Pre users will reportedly be offered Sprint’s “Everything” line of plans, which covers voice and data.

When the Pre is rolled out, individual users will be able to choose the 450-minute plan at US$69.99, the 900-minute plan at $89.99 or the unlimited plan at $99.99, Caroline Semerdjian, Sprint Nextel’s communications manager – wireless devices, told the E-Commerce Times. Families will have the option of the 1,500-minute plan at $129.99, the 3,000-minute plan at $169.99 or the unlimited plan at $189.99, Semerdjian said.

Business customers will be able to pool their minutes using “five or so” plans, according to Semerdjian.

Hanging Back

Sprint has been lagging badly behind Verizon and AT&T in the wireless carrier market, and analysts have, by and large, stated publicly that Palm’s development of its Pre smartphone is a last-ditch bid to cling to life.

Just this week, Sprint shareholder Cora Bennett filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the District of Kansas accusing Sprint of continuing to downplay and conceal its problems with its network, customer service and ability to keep customers, according to the Kansas City Star.

Neither Sprint nor Palm have helped matters by their caginess in marketing the Pre. Bloggers and the media were less than impressed when they attended a webinar about the Pre held by the two companies on Thursday. Many groused about how all they heard about were Sprint’s service plans for the Pre and a few minor details from Palm about the smartphone.

Look Further Ahead

They may be guilty of tunnel vision in focusing only on the Pre, Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst at IDC, told the E-Commerce Times. Palm and Sprint are engaged in smart marketing but, more importantly, Palm is not putting all its eggs in one basket, he said.

“They have been stocking their pipeline with good products,” Llamas said. “They’re coming out with another version of the Pre later this year, and they have signed up Sprint and Alltel for the Treo Pro,” Llamas said.

The Treo Pro is Palm’s smartphone for the business user, and it runs Windows Mobile, while the Pre is for consumers, Palm spokesperson Leslie Letts told the E-Commerce Times.

The Pre can pull contact information from Facebook, Google and Outlook. It will run on Palm’s new webOS, which replaces the existing Palm OS.

“We’ll continue to offer both platforms,” Letts said.

Another Pre On the Way

Palm is working on a new version [*correction] of the Pre, running UMTS, the Universal Mobile Telecommunication System. This is a third generation (3G) mobile communications technology that is being developed into a 4G technology.

The most common form of UMTS uses W-CDMA, or Wideband Code Division Multiple Access, as the underlying communications link between the mobile and base stations. UMTS is also known as “3GSM.”

Palm is not just banking on its devices. In January, it launched a mobile version of its Software Store on the Web. This has more than 5,000 applications and games for devices ranging from the Centro to the Treo Pro. It also has more than 1,000 free applications.

Developing webOS Apps

Palm is trying to get developers [*correction] to work on webOS applications, Letts said.

That’s a smart move, and one that will boost Palm’s chances, IDC’s Llamas said. “Mobile apps are no longer just one of those things that are nice to have any more, they’re a prerequisite if you want to play in the mobile space. They’re the next frontier.”

Despite analysts’ doubts about Palm’s future, Elevation Partners, a major investor in the vendor, remains unconcerned. In December, Elevation, a private investment firm, put US$100 million of equity investment into Palm, on top of the $325 million it had put up for a 25 percent stake of the company in June 2007.

Elevation delivered another vote of confidence in Palm this week. On Monday, Palm sold more than 23 million shares, including 18.5 million owned by Elevation, which recouped the $49 million it paid for them. Elevation then reinvested the money in Palm.

Maybe there’s method in Palm’s madness after all.

*ECT News Network Editor’s Note: The original published version of this article stated that Letts confirmed a new Pre would be released later this year. Letts confirmed Palm is working on a UMTS version but did not say when it would be released. We regret the error.

*ECT News Network Editor’s Note: The original published version of this article stated Palm was trying to get its Palm OS application developers to work on webOS applications. Palm is trying to get developers in general to work on its webOS, Letts said. We regret the error.

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