2007 - The Palm Year in Review
In our annual year in review article, PalmInfocenter takes a look at all of the major events that took place in the Palm world over the past 12 months. 2007 was a year of alternation and change to come in the world of Palm. After riding on a wave of Treo popularity in 2006, the year saw increased competition, internal discomposure and corporate recapitalizations.
Read on for our look back at the Palm Economy in 2007.
Palm started the year by bringing the Treo 750 to the US. Previously available in Europe and Asia as the Treo 750v, Palm announced the Cingular Treo 750 at CES 2006. Research group NPD released a report that stated smartphone sales were on the rise and listed the Treo 650 and 700p among the top five sellers in the US for '06. In Palm device news, the Treo 680 was released around the world, while the LifeDrive faded out of existence.
The mobile industry would never be the same following Apple's groundbreaking iPhone announcement in early January.
The company formerly known as PalmSource fufulliled its contractual obligations to discontinue use of the Palm trademark. ACCESS decreed that its "Palm OS" property would hereinafter be known as "Garnet OS".
February started off with the first beta release of SlingPlayer for Palm OS devices. MobileInfocenter launched a new Mobile Linux site. Windows Mobile 6 was announced by Microsoft, with Palm announcing its intentions to release a WM6 device.
The other big news items from the month were more details and official screenshots of the Access Linux Platform. Palm released a new GPS Kit, the GPS Navigator Smartphone Edition. Verizon picked up the Treo 700wx.
In the begining of March a chorus of buyout and takeover rumors sent Palm's stock higher. Meanwhile, Palm announced the official opening of a new Pacific R&D and Operations center in Shanghai, China. The NYTimes published a piece on Palm's latest hire at the time, Paul Mercer, a former Apple engineer who would be tasked with helping Palm "respond to the iPhone."
In April Palm CEO Ed Colligan came out in an interview to downplay the rampant takeover rumors stating he was focused on operating Palm as a stand-alone business. Shortly thereafter Palm announced the first details of its new Linux based Mobile platform, which would later turn out to be the underlying OS on the Foleo product.
Late May saw the hyped and long-hinted at debut of the Palm Foleo. Palm OS fans and the tech press in general were quick to question and bash the device, while Palm founder and Inventor Jeff Hawkins would call it "the best idea he ever had."
June saw the end of the takeover rumors and the official announcement of a recapitalization deal with Bono-backed Elevation Partners. The deal involved Elevation taking a 25% stake in Palm, while investors got a $9 equity payout per share. It would also bring in much need new management to Palm in the form of former Apple Execs Fred Anderson and Jon Rubinstein. It also marked the end of the long reign of Chairman Eric Benhamou on Palm's board.
Shortly after the deal was announced word came out that Palm had a round of layoffs. Roughly around 100 people were let go in order to "eliminate some of the hierarchy."
During the quaterly conference call late in the month, CEO Ed Colligan expressed confidence and optimism in the Foleo line, despite the mixed reviews from industry 'pundits'.
July saw the iPhone debut to rabid fans who camped out in lines for the device. Tim posted a editorial comparing it with the Treo line which aroused a lot of debate.
September got underway with the bombshell that the Foleo would be "cancelled in its current configuration." Ed Colligan posted a letter on the Palm blog explaining his reasoning and the decision to not bring the Foleo to market. He cited the costs and commitments of supporting another platform, while Palm was already underway working on another separate Linux based platform for its next generation smartphones.
Palm would have two new product announcements this month that would end up shipping. The Treo 500v running Windows Mobile smartphone edition was announced for Europe via Vodafone. The Treo 500 marked the beginning of Palm's entry into the Windows Mobile ODM rebranding market, as it lacked any of the usual software or hardware customizations Palm has been known for.
The latest and last new device to debut in 2007 was the Palm Centro on Sprint. The Centro marked the first major new form factor and design for a Palm branded smartphone since the Treo 600 in 2003. Besides the sleeker profile, the Centro is also notable for its low $99 debut price witch has helped fuel its early success.
In October Palm reported its first net loss in more than three years of $841,000. Sales of Palm smartphones slowed during the current quarter, down around 9% from the previous record setting Q4 FY07 quarter. Colligan would talk up the progress on the next generation linux-based operating system during the conference call. He went on to state that Palm is not ceding the high end of the smartphone market to anybody, and that the next generation device will deliver more revolutionary device types.
In early November Google made public their mobile plans, announcing the Android OS and the Open Handset Alliance. Palm would go on record to state that they had no plans to join the effort or adopt Google's new mobile linux based OS.
In the PDA world, yet another new report stated the obvious, that handheld sales have declined due to convergence and manufacturer disinterest. Meanwhile smartphone sales were predicted to continue to grow at double digits over the next five years.
ACCESS made some headline news by releasing a Palm OS Garnet VM for the Nokia Internet tablet series. The software allows Linux based Nokia tablets to run native Palm OS applications in a virtual environment. You can checkout more in our photo gallery and video demo.
One of the oldest and largest Palm OS only software sites, PalmGear, shut down this month. Its current owner Motricity decided to close the domain and transition its customers to its multi-platform PocketGear site. In the process the site removed thousands of classic Palm OS titles and all freeware from its catalogue.
December saw the launch of a new mobile portal for smartphones, PhoneFavs, from MobileInfocenter. The site offers mobile device users a number of tools to enhance their mobile web surfing experience including a bookmarking service, a mobilizer and a mobile site directory.
In the conference call Colligan said that 2008 will continue to see new Palm OS and Windows Mobile based product introductions. He confirmed that new Treo's based on Windows Mobile are in the works as well as the global launch of the Palm Centro.
2007 was a year of many ups and downs for Palm Inc. The company came into the year riding high on a wave of rising Treo popularity and anticipation for Hawkins new mystery device. Yet with the introduction of the iPhone, increasing BlackBerry sales and a plethora of sleeker Windows Mobile smartphones, Palm's models suddenly faced a new wave of fierce competition. Palm started the year out profitable for the past three years, only to end with losses and declining sales in the later quarters. The company itself has acknowledged this transitionary period as it made abrupt reductions to solely focus on its goal of developing a next generation platform for future products.
From the quick rise and fall of the Foleo to the introduction and early popularity of the Centro, this year has been a wild ride for Palm. WIth new leadership and a self-stated sharp focus on its long term vision, Palm certainly has an uphill battle ahead of it.
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