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A WiMax phone might help ailing Palm

But Palm also needs to start selling phones with AT&T, T-Mobile

February 26, 2010 05:03 PM ET

Computerworld - After Palm Inc. admitted that its smartphone sales were below expectations, rumors started swirling that the company might be sold, or that it could be beefing up its product line with a WiMax smartphone for Sprint Nextel.

Palm's biggest fans say that they don't want Palm to be sold and hope that the cell phone maker keeps plugging away at new smartphones and upgrades to its webOS.

"There are rumblings of [a WiMax-enabled smartphone] that might turn out to be wishful thinking, but I'd like to see that just because Palm needs to do something kind of drastic to get out there and get a good buzz [in the market]," said Kris Keilhack, associate editor at, and a Palm device user for 14 years.

HTC Corp. has been widely rumored to be making the first WiMax phone for Sprint, Keilhack noted, but other analysts and observers said it's possible that Palm also would build one, partly because Sprint had the exclusive carrier deal to sell the Palm Pre, the first device based on the webOS, in 2009. Sprint, the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, which is also heavily involved in deployment of the faster WiMax technology, has announced a special event at the CTIA trade show in March.

Neither Sprint nor Palm responded to requests for comment.

One commenter on, named Oldmanwoerle, reasoned that a WiMax phone from Palm on Sprint is a "huge opportunity for both Sprint and Palm to grab a lot of subscribers."

Getting more Palm smartphone devices on the market with more carriers is what several industry analysts said they believe could save the company from disaster.

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest carrier, has been selling the the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus smartphones since Jan. 25, although a report surfaced Wednesday that Verizon might begin pulling them off its shelves. However, Verizon officials Thursday called the devices "important" and said they would continue to be part of Verizon's marketing lineup.

Verizon admitted that its initial marketing of Palm devices was "below expectations," Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein wrote in a letter to Palm employees yesterday. However, Rubinstein said steps were taken to accelerate sales with the help of Palm Brand Ambassadors. He said the campaign was also boosting its marketing, with more Palm ads on billboards, bus shelters, buses and subway stations.

The nation's second-largest carrier, AT&T, said in January that it would sell two webOS devices this year, and some reports put the on-sale date in early May, based on filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Even T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier, is expected to sell a Palm webOS smartphone by midyear, Keilhack said.

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