Is RIM the next Palm?

Research In Motion shares fell as much as 14 percent as analysts said a reduced profit forecast hurts management’s credibility and raises pressure on the company as it heads into an annual trade show next week…

“This further damages already low credibility, making them the ‘poster boy’ for a show-me story from here,” Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said in a research note…

RIM is struggling to compete against Apple and Google in the smartphone market. The company, which will host the BlackBerry World conference starting on Monday, has to update its BlackBerry lineup and provide some evidence its products can do better against Apple’s iPhone and devices that run Google’s Android operating system, said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto.

“Management needs to deliver on the product side,” said Taylor, who manages about $14.5 billion including RIM and Apple shares. “That includes competitive next-generation smartphones and building out the app library.”

Apple offers more than 350,000 software applications, or apps, and Google’s Android Market has more than 150,000, compared with more than 25,000 in BlackBerry App World…

At least four other analysts — Jefferies & Co. Inc.’s Peter Misek, Cormark Securities Inc.’s Richard Tse, Gleacher & Co. Securities’ Stephen Patel and National Bank Financial’s Kris Thompson — reduced their ratings on the stock…

The sales on their existing devices must have fallen off a cliff,” said Matt Thornton, an Avian Securities LLC analyst in Boston who has a “neutral” rating on the stock. “They are getting hit by a combination of a stale portfolio and heated competition on devices.”

Complacency, dealing with the most dynamic marketplace in the world of commerce as if it’s the railroad business in 1890 never delivers stability and long-term confidence.

I can recall emailing folks I knew inside Palm about the potential for building their OS into a fully functional operating system – keeping it small and adding needed potential while resisting bloat. Just like RIM they said, “Hey – we’re doing just fine as we are.”

No Windows smartphones for HP

HP might aspire to be “Microsoft’s biggest customer,” according to HP executive vice president Todd Bradley, but the company has officially distanced itself from Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. The move should come as little surprise, given HP’s finalization of its Palm acquisition late last month.

Palm, after all, is the brains behind the webOS mobile operating system, which HP now intends to use as the basis for all of its future smartphones…

The decision comes in the wake of a suspicious amount of shuffling regarding the HP Slate—first intended to launch this year as a Windows 7-based tablet, then pulled in favor of Palm’s webOS, and now apparently resurrected as a Windows-based enterprise-class device.

That’s not to say that webOS is going anywhere, however. According to Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul, HP appears to be adopting a two-platform strategy for its Slate tablets: enterprise customers get the Windows versions, and the general consumer market gets webOS.

Regardless, Microsoft is out on HP’s smartphones. It’s not a huge chunk taken out of the Microsoft’s business, given that fellow manufacturers ASUS, Dell, and Samsung—amongst others—have all signed on as Windows Phone 7 partners. Nevertheless, HP’s move is made even more interesting when one factors in the talk of the market before HP’s acquisition of Palm.

“We are simply very excited to be entering a new era in our Smartphone business together with Microsoft, especially as the market continues to grow and evolve. HP is working even closer with Microsoft to develop signature phones on the Windows Phone 7 Series that offer an entirely new consumer experience,” said Steve Manser, a senior vice president at HP, in a series of partner statements put out by Microsoft.

Once HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion, however, executives were singing a different tale.

Ayuh. Lifetime commitments sometimes don’t outlast quarterly reports in the marketplace.

The only real surprise about the article – is that they managed to get all the way through without mentioning Apple.

Who was Company C?

Hewlett-Packard landed Palm by raising its bid following interest from other suitors after intellectual property and a potential licensing arrangement for the WebOS…Simply put, HP almost fell short of acquiring Palm. Palm’s outlines the process to sell itself and the role of “Company C,” an unnamed outfit that was in the running until the HP deal was actually announced…

Palm said it received interest from 16 companies including HP. Six including HP entered nondisclosure agreements:

The two companies in addition to HP that presented acquisition proposals are referred to as Company A and Company B. A fourth company, referred to as Company C, had initially been in discussions with Palm regarding an intellectual property transaction and later made a proposal to acquire Palm.

A fifth company, referred to as Company D, contacted Palm on March 18 to discuss an intellectual property transaction but did not make a proposal to acquire Palm. Company D did not enter into a nondisclosure agreement and did not review non-public information about Palm. Discussions with Company D continued intermittently until April 15.

The one common thread with all of these suitors? They wanted intellectual property transactions and many of the potential buyers were as interested in a licensing arrangement for things like the WebOS. However, an IP deal wouldn’t help Palm all that much…

On April 24 Palm’s CEO and advisors communicated to HP and its advisors that, to remain in the process, HP must improve its offer significantly and immediately. Later that day, HP’s financial advisors verbally delivered a proposal to acquire Palm for $5.70 per common share in cash. HP’s financial advisors also requested a five-day exclusivity period. On April 25 HP delivered a letter confirming this proposal with a target announcement date of close of business on April 27 and sent a draft exclusivity agreement covering such period on April 26.

While much has been made about five bidders for Palm, it appears to be a two-horse race between HP and Company C, which could logically be Lenovo and Dell or a few others. When HP matched, Company C declined to go higher, but Palm notes the bidder proposed “an alternative transaction under which it would acquire certain patents and take a nonexclusive license to Palm WebOS in exchange for a one-time cash payment of $800 million.”

The big question revolves around the identity of Company C. Obviously, Company C felt it needed a mobile operating system badly. HP also decided it needed the WebOS too…

Palm couldn’t come with the marketing smarts to rebuild lost opportunities.

HP thinks the WebOS is worthy – and they can make it profitable, a significant addition to their portfolio. But, who was Company C?

Palm caught snooping on Pre owners

Palm has responded to claims that its recently-launched Pre smartphone abuses owners’ privacy.

The company issued a statement after one owner discovered his phone was sending data every day back to Palm. The information included the current location of the phone and how long each application was used for.

In its statement, Palm said it took users’ privacy “seriously” and said it gave phone owners ways to turn features on and off.

The discovery was made by software developer and Pre owner Joey Hess, who found that his phone was reporting his location over a secure connection back to Palm. It also sent back information about application crashes – even those not seen by a Pre owner.

Also in the daily update sent to Palm was a list of the third party applications installed on the phone.

In its privacy policy, Palm does explain that it will gather geographical data to help with location-based services. However, commentators were puzzled as to why it needed to gather so much data and why owners were not told about what it had gathered…

Palm issued a statement about Mr Hess’ discovery and said it “offers users ways to turn data collecting services on and off”.

It added: “Our privacy policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer’s information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience.”

Har! That’s a gotcha.

True, it’s the sort of discovery that keeps some geeks in perpetual orgasm – and makes the rest of us yawn. But, at least it keeps the corporate mavens on their toes.

Give me a second, I’m booting up

New laptops that boot up in 30 seconds? Too slow for me. Five seconds? Better. But what I want is a machine that is ready in about a second, just like my smartphone.

I’m fully aware that expressing any impatience with a computer’s boot time invites derision. When the entire globe is engulfed in an economic crisis, measuring the seconds required to start different computers may seem the most trivial of concerns.

Still, I’m not alone. Unhappiness with boot times, which commonly run from 45 seconds to 60 seconds, is shared by many computer users, as reflected in much online discussion of the issue.

I’ve come to believe that the unhappiness does not illustrate impatience. Rather, it reflects an important shift in computing, as we increasingly rely on our laptops not as machines that we use for long stretches at a time, but as machines for using the Internet, often and briefly, and not much else. We don’t tolerate, and have never tolerated, long wait times that are disproportionate to the activity that follows them. If we need to spend only a few seconds looking up something on the Web, it’s only natural that we want the preparatory time to be as close to zero as possible. It’s not impatience, just proportionality.

Continue reading