As rumours of Palm’s sale reached fever pitch this week, the beleaguered handset manufacturer continued to insist its roadmap remains unchanged.
On Monday 12 April, Paul Ghent, VP of EMEA sales insisted it is business as usual and refused to comment on ‘rumour and speculation’.
In an interview with Mobile the previous week, Ghent had revealed Palm’s plans to deliver more handsets in addition to the Pre Plus and the Pixi Plus, and to widen its distribution channels. He said: ‘You will see more. Form factor is still important, and there will be new types of phones coming out in the not too distant future. We will continue to surprise the market with our roadmap.’
Ghent said the manufacturer is also planning to address distribution, which has limited its reach.
‘We will have to expand at some point and bring in more channels, maybe a retailer, maybe more networks,’ said Ghent. ‘Unless we go with more channels and networks, we will limit ourselves, so we will have to move on. It won’t be too long before we announce something.’
However, the timing is dependent on potential partners, explained Ghent.
‘Expansion is all about timing, but it’s not just our timing. It also depends on other channels which have their own views, campaigns and portfolios to consider,’ he said.
Ghent conceded that Palm’s decision to cut an exclusive deal with O2 for the Palm Pre last year had its drawbacks. He said: ‘It’s been a good start for us, but it is a limited approach. It had to be, we are only a small company.’
He added: ‘We chose O2 as a partner as it is a very powerful brand – the home of the smartphone. It’s been a good collaboration and we’ve done TV, cinema and print campaigns. We are learning as we go and have revised some of the campaigns. But we’ve had a positive reaction each time. We’ve also found there are a lot of loyal Palm users out there.’
Palm is also targeting retail staff in the battle to increase sales. Palm and O2 are training all in-store staff, with an on-going programme of people going round the stores providing refresher tuition.
‘We’ve got to make sure that things are done well at the point of sale. We have to get O2 staff enthused about the product,’ Ghent said.
Palm is also launching a new marketing strategy, aimed at a younger generation.
He added: ‘We are still at an early stage in relaunching the brand. We have a small road map. The next stage of marketing will be more digitally orientated, relying on viral marketing; so it’s not a monologue like with adverts. Instead, we will be trying to create a dialogue on Facebook, Twitter and so on.’
Ghent remains confident Palm can survive in an increasingly competitive market. He said: ‘It is a very crowded, noisy market right now. There are more than 50 Android phones due to come out in the first half of 2010 alone. But we are not worried about all these devices, as there are not many that compete with us and our platform.’
Ghent said Palm’s much admired WebOS is the company’s key differentiator. ‘The good thing about our WebOS is that it is entirely consistent,’ he said. ‘We are not putting it over another platform or user interface, so there are no conflicts. I think there is definitely room for Palm in the market.’