Friday, June 21, 2024

Palm Takes It on the Chin, Still Fighting

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Palm continues to placate Wall Street with promises of future
growth, as shares jumped in after-hours trading even as the smartphone
maker reported a loss totaling $105 million for its fiscal fourth

While the loss didn’t surprise industry watchers — it actually
topped analyst estimates — the company’s executives did touch on
Palm’s direction during its critical transformation.

During the company’s earnings call, newly appointed Palm CEO Jon
Rubenstein ran down a list of Palm’s strengths, including interest
from the enterprise for the company’s new flagship product, the Palm
Pre, and expressed confidence in his belief that company’s new mobile
platform webOS will take off with developers, despite a slow roll-out.

For the quarter ending May 29, Palm’s (NASDAQ: PALM) net loss of
$105 million is more than double the loss of $43.4 million in the same
quarter last year.

Palm lost $0.40 per share in the latest quarter, compared with a
loss of $0.22 per share a year earlier. Revenue dipped from the past
year by 71 percent, to $86.8 million from $296.2 million. Analysts
polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for Palm to post a loss of
$0.62 per share on sales of $80.6 million.

Palm also shipped 351,000 smartphones during the quarter, down 62
percent from a year earlier.

For the entire fiscal year, Palm realized a loss of $753 million,
or $6.51 a share, compared with a loss of $110.9 million, or $1.05 a
share, a year earlier. Revenue fell 44 percent to $735.9 million from
$1.32 billion.

Still, Palm share price rose $1.68 to $15.70 in trading before
exchanges opened, and shares have more than quadrupled this year in
large part on speculation that the Palm Pre will fuel a comeback at
the company.

Also, the fourth-quarter and full-year results don’t account for
the success the Palm Pre has seen since it went on sale June 6 — and
made sure investors and analysts looked to the
company’s future.

“The launch of Palm webOS and Palm Pre was a major milestone in
Palm’s transformation,” Rubenstein said in a statement. “We have now
officially re-entered the race. We have more to accomplish, but the
groundwork is laid for a very promising future here at Palm.”

The Pre, the first smartphone operating on the company’s new webOS
mobile operating system, hit store shelves three weeks ago. It faces
tough competition from Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) new iPhone 3G S, as well
as other models expected from Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) and
those running on Android from HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

Still, Rubenstein said the lucrative smartphone market is healthy
enough to sustain more than one top dog.

“Only a handful of companies have the software and product design
capabilities,” he said during the earnings call. “There’s room for
three to five players in this space. We don’t have to beat each other
to prosper.”

Among the competition,
the RIM BlackBerry dominates in the enterprise but its maker is trying
to push into the consumer market, where Apple reigns supreme. But
Palm’s chief said there’s initial interest in the Pre from the
enterprise, as well.

“One thing we’re seeing is a lot of interest out of the enterprise,
and we don’t have a lot of data yet, but the general feel is there is
a lot of enterprise interest out there,” he said.

Next page: Pre success, webOS hopes

Pre success, webOS hopes

Rubenstein, a veteran of Apple where he helped create the
ubiquitous iPod, would not confirm analysts estimates that 150,000
Pres have sold since launch, or that a “Pre Lite” model would be
released by the end of the year to compete with the iPhone 3G, which
now retails for $99.

He did, however, confirm that confirm that Palm Pre owners have
downloaded 1 million apps for the new smartphone and hinted at future
devices coming in the webOS family.

“We do have a great product pipeline, which I’m not going to tell
you about it right now — sorry,” he said.

On the developer front, analysts have
cited the slow release
of the webOS SDK, due out at the end of the
summer, and limited number of apps at launch, around 30, as possible
deterrents to the success of the Pre.

Rubenstein responded by saying the company’s “methodical approach”
will pay off, and that he wanted to get developer feedback before
releasing it, which could be interpreted at a veiled jab at Google’s
Android OS, which has been criticized for being unleashed before it
was ready.

He also said the company will take some sort of social media
approach to the app store.

“One of our views is as you get large numbers of apps, discovery,
finding ones interesting to you becomes more and more difficult. So we
hope to use a more community approach to that, I’m not getting into
specifics, but you’ll have to stay tuned for some exciting [news] in
that area,” Rubenstein said.

with experience creating Pre apps
predict that the community will
rally around webOS as it uses building blocks most programmers are
already familiar with.

Rubenstein agreed. “We’ve had tremendous interest in this area,
we’re approaching it methodically, we had 30 developers in the
beginning, with their feedback we evolved the SDK, the we let hundreds
in, and we’re feeling good about it, and we’re about to open it up to
thousands, there’s a lot of developers in the queue, so I don’t
there’s an issue with a lack of interest out there,” he said.

He also declined to comment on any when the webOS family of
products would be released on other carriers. Sprint now has an
exclusive deal to sell the Palm Pre.

Rubenstein called Sprint a “great partner,” saying the carrier is
doing a “phenomenal job,” based on personal visits he made to stores
at launch, and added that its data plans are generally cheaper than
that of competitors. However, he declined to go into further detail
on Palm’s relationships with Sprint or other carriers.

“It’s not something we talk about,” he said.

Despite the positive take on the company’s next steps outlined
during the earnings call, at least one analyst is wary of how the
bottom line will be impacted moving forward.

“While Palm delivered a good quarter on very low expectations, we
remain cautious on the stock due to the lack of visibility heading
into F2010,” Peter Misek, an analyst with Canaccord Adams, wrote in a
report issued today.

“The company offered no financial guidance and would not disclose
Pre volumes in the quarter. Management would also offer no updates on
other carrier discussions or new product launch plans. In addition, we
believe that Pre sales are below our projections at roughly 150,000
sold to date according to our channel checks.”

Article courtesy of

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