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Palm takes on rivals

Saul Hansell of the New York Times recently penned an interesting feature on Palm. Hansell opened the piece by describing Palm as a "mouse" in "a land of cellphone giants" including Apple, Research in Motion, Google, Microsoft and Nokia, then interposes comments by Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein with analyst thoughts to show both Palm's strengths and supposed weaknesses. At one point in the piece, Tero Kuittenen, an analyst with MKM Partners, describes how opinions have fluctuated since the Pre announcement in January:

“These emotional extremes reflect a handset market in profound turmoil,” said Tero Kuittinen, an analyst with MKM Partners. “Palm soared to $18 when people were expecting Pre to be a blockbuster. American tech bloggers went crazy over Pre and pronounced it to be the St. Paul following the iPhone Jesus,” he said. “Then Verizon started pushing Droid and the bloggers reversed. Now Pre was doomed and Android was going to take over the global handset market.”

There were a few other noteworthy points, including Rubinstein being quoted as saying, "Android, and the droid in particular, are designed for the techie audience...We [at Palm] are doing a more general product that helps people live their lives seamlessly." Given Palm's strong support for open-source development, easily modifiable code and other tech-friendly features of the Pre in particular, the idea that the Pre was not "designed for the techie audience" seems a bit odd, though Palm has repeatedly stated that they are pursuing customers that aren't current smartphone owners.

On the prospects for Palm with the addition of the Pixi to its lineup, analyst Kuittinen estimates that "Palm may be able to sell 10 million handsets next year," depending on adding carriers in Europe as well as the United States.

Oddly, notwithstanding the largely positive spin of the piece, The Times' headline changed between when the piece was first posted (and put into print) and the current online version. The original headline read, "Underdog Palm Takes on Giants in Smartphones," but the current version has morphed to, "Is Palm's Comeback Losing Steam?" There's no explanation either in or accompanying the piece for the change, and little indication in the article that Palm's comeback may be "losing steam."

Setting aside the title change, the article paints a generally good picture of Palm's current and future prospects, especially with the release of the down-market Pixi to fill the Centro role with which Palm was so successful in the past.