By MG Siegler
“You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two-year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone,” Elevation Partners (which owns a huge portion of Palm) co-founder Roger McNamee told Bloomberg in March. “Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later.”
We’re 5 days away from that milestone. Anyone want to take that bet still?
It’s been 18 days since the launch of the Palm Pre, and the device has already passed an important milestone: 1 million app downloads, according to mobile analytics firm Medialets. That’s impressive for a store with only 30 or so applications. While Apple (AAPL) surpassed 10 million downloads in its first weekend following the App Store launch in 2007, it had over 500 applications at launch, and already had a few million devices (the original iPhone) with which people could download from.
The big problem for Palm (PALM) is that is set itself up to be compared to the iPhone with comments like the one above and its feature set. And now it has a huge mountain to climb to get anywhere near it. While the Pre may have seen a million app downloads after 18 days, Apple’s newest device, the iPhone 3GS, sold a million hardware units in just three days after its launch last week. Analysts estimate Pre sales to be about 150,000 so far. All told, there are well over 20 million iPhones now out there (probably closer to 25 million), and when you throw in iPod touches (which also access the App Store), there are over 40 million units.
And Palm isn’t making things any easier on itself. During this critical time after launch where new apps are vital, there are only 30 because the webOS SDK still isn’t open to all developers. Palm recently gave an update saying that developers should by the “end of this summer”, but even when they get it, it will likely be another few months before a wide range of apps start coming out. That means it will be the Fall or Winter before there are a ton of apps for the Pre — and that’s assuming developers jump on board.
Meanwhile, all indications are that Apple’s new iPhone 3.0 SDK is kicking app development into an even higher level on that platform. The App Store is currently backlogged with app approvals, and just about every developer I’ve talked to, has something in the pipeline very shortly.
Oh yeah, and Apple just launched a version of the iPhone that is $99, which everyone seems to be forgetting. The sales numbers on that should be interesting.
That’s not to say Palm cannot be successful with the Pre and more specifically, its webOS, it can. It’s a great device, and a great platform. And the mobile arena, and specifically smartphones, are exploding in popularity right now. There is certainly more than enough room for a number of devices and a range of platforms. But Palm still has some very serious question marks on the business side of things, and they’re basically betting the farm on the Pre. It has another webOS device that may or may not come in the next few months, but even if it does, if the apps aren’t there, it could be facing a less than stellar entrance. And that’s the kind of performance Palm needs right now, stellar.
On the other hand, McNamee’s comment might technically be true. All those people who bought the original iPhone may not be using one a month from now — they might be using the iPhone 3GS, instead. Let’s revisit this on July 29, shall we?