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The Palm Pre's Failure as a Technology : A Case Study


By Hervé St-Louis
Jun 22, 2015 - 7:17

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Editor's notes: This is a short text that I use as a case study when I teach my students about writing research papers related to information and communication technologies. The Palm Pre's story is just too good not to be used as teaching material.

Palm inc. invented the smartphone in 2002 with the Treo years before the iPhone. Palm’s experience with smartphones was such that they held the patents on most core smartphone technologies such as airplane mode, light sensitive displays, and of course, the smartphone itself. In 2009, facing an aging operating system and competition from Apple’s iPhone, Palm released the Palm Pre using its new operating system webOS with a new team of developers hired from Apple. During the development of webOS and the Palm Pre, Palm’s internal team was faced with clashes between the new Apple hires and the old Treo team. The multiple webOS phones and the platform faced competition from Apple, Blackberry and Google’s new Android platform. While the gesture-based interface was loved by critics and users, the hardware was severely despised. It took the company several iterations of webOS and phones before they reached an equilibrium of performance and adoption by the public – a Technology S-Curve. However, ultimately, the company was too late and they lost the opportunity to grow their market share as users veered to iOS and Android devices. Throughout this time of market challenges, Palm had poor employee retention, as competitors hired its  experienced engineers frequently.

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Last Updated: May 15, 2017 - 11:53

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