Friday, January 18, 2008

Palm (NASDAQ:PALM): Getting its act together? - Avian Securities

Avian's Tero Kuittinen comments on Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) following discussions with operator sources that indicate Palm is getting near to debuting Centro at AT&T and after that (somewhat surprisingly) T-Mobile. Centro's success at Sprint has caught the attention of rival operators and the 3-month exclusivity period is drawing to an end. The firm is unsure about the prospects of a Verizon launch of Centro - the Verizon relationship of Palm may be under some stress after the 4Q launch delay of Treo. In discussion with the Palm CFO, he naturally declined to discuss specific operator deals, but giggled a little when asked about T-Mobile. Centro demand at Sprint continues running above expectations of both Sprint and Palm.

The CFO sounded excited specifically about the new user interface, innovative application suite and software/hardware integration of the upcoming new Palm products. Avian expects Palm to get experimental with the look and feel of new devices, continuing down the path that Centro started. Its main goal here is drawing a clear distinction to rival models following the Blackberry-lookalike pattern and the iPhone/Voyager/Viewty approach. They think the emphasis on new look, feel and user experience of devices is crucial. Outside the Windows and Symbian OS systems, it is easier to explore novel methods of integrating software into hardware - a clear priority for the new product generation.

Palm seems to be focusing more on consumer-oriented devices with unusual look and feel, while continuing the business device development to hold onto core Treo user base. There is definitely room for smartphones that do not use the sprawling, relatively heavy Windows and Symbian operating systems that ensure smooth multitasking, but can overwhelm average consumers. Palm is aiming to develop products that make multimedia and entertainment applications easy to access - expect a completely new menu structure and an application selection that emphasizes video, music and game downloads in addition to photo/video processing and messaging. Making content downloads easy and intuitive is a laudable goal considering how cold Windows and Symbian leave many consumers regarding content delivery. Firm continues seeing Centro as a transitional model that points towards a new generation of smartphones that are lighter, cheaper and more consumer-oriented than most current mainstream smartphones. To some extent, both Windows and Symbian are held hostage by backward compatibility issues that Palm can to large degree sidestep - this is an exciting angle.

Notablecalls: Excellent color on Palm! Looks like the co is getting its act together.

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