Tuesday, June 9

Riding Coattails: Palm Pre

If conversations are any measure, it becomes much more challenging to say whether the new Palm Pre from Sprint will have a real impact on the smart phone market, especially as it relates to the iPhone. Despite a strong sales start, which some analysts predict to be between 50,000 and 100,000 units over the weekend, the iPhone continues to dominate online conversations.

Specifically, the iPhone captures 67 percent of the conversations when compared to the Palm Pre. When another well-known brand is included, such as Blackberry, the numbers show where the impact might land and it's not on the iPhone. Split three ways, the iPhone captures 50 percent of the conversation while the remaining 50 percent is unevenly split between the Palm Pre and Blackberry. Even then, Blackberry retains a small majority with 26 percent.

So Why Target The iPhone?

From a purely public relations perspective, comparing the new Pre to the iPhone ensures more attention than comparing it to other smart phones. However, from a strategic communication perspective, it might not work.

While the new phone has some distinguishing features, it immediately loses to the more than 50,000 applications offered by iPhone. And, according to Research in Motion, it remains well behind BlackBerry Storm and HTC's G1. The Pre public relations push to compare to the iPhone also loses on price point with the iPhone's new $99 price (the Pre offers a rebate). It also seems to be providing a forum for people to talk about the new iPhone 3G S (which will retail for $199) due out at the end of June.

What Telecommunications Needs To Know

The iPhone has been a strategic communication success story as much as it was a technological leap forward two years ago.

Once its initial branding dispute was settled, Apple not only delivered a phone that was everything but a phone, it also captured 1.1 percent of the mobile phone market in two years.

Where the strategic communication coup shines through is that every other phone maker has struggled to catch up by attempting to adopt iPhone technologies. Ironically, the copycat business model fails because it continually reinforces the notion that all other smart phones still have to catch up.

When consumers consider that fact, the Pre, despite some sales successes, seems to be another public reminder that even though Apple's 1.1 percent market share is much smaller than Nokia's 38 percent or Motorola's 8.3 percent, everyone considers it to be the product to beat.

Long term, as long as Apple continues to stay ahead of the curve, most phone makers will continue to look left behind. Short term, the telecommunication competitors will be hard pressed to win a comparison as long as they continue to define their products against the one with a home court advantage.

In fact, other than trying to ride the iPhone conversation coattails, there wasn't any benefit at all in attempting to cast the Pre as an iPhone alternative. At least, there was no benefit that we could see.


Rich on 7/25/09, 4:54 PM said...

More Words:

If there was any doubt the Palm Pre was trying to ride coattails, consider what happened after an analyst has recommended investors sell their Palm shares because he read a poll on a Palm fan website that suggested very high return rates for the smartphones.


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