updated 01:00 pm EST, Wed February 11, 2009
Palm at Thomas Weisel Conf
Palm doesn't expect there to be any disputes with Apple over patents for multi-touch technology in webOS or the Pre smartphone, company chief Ed Colligan said today at the Thomas Weisel Technology & Telecom Conference. The executive believes there are "no issues with Apple" iPhone patents and says that Palm is "very respectful" of other companies' intellectual property, preferring to dodge around conflicts altogether rather than setting itself up for a challenge. Palm has about 1,500 patents that Colligan is confident gives his company a safe foundation.
Apple has provided mixed signals over its own actions, prompting fears that the company might sue Palm for alleged patent infringement and scuttle the Pre before it ships. Company operations chief Tim Cook has consciously avoided implying that Palm is violating patents but has also said Apple "will not stand" for any perceived theft of its intellectual property.
He also provides details regarding the Pre launch itself and notes that there will be central webOS app store by the time the phone is available on Sprint in the first half of the year. The service will allow over-the-air downloads but, unlike with Apple's devices, won't force users to download solely from the Palm-run portal. Colligan further hints that the Sunnyvale, California-based company hopes to keep the well-known medical app ePocrates onboard for webOS as it was an important app for PalmOS devices. The ePocrates team last year launched an iPhone version of its software.
No clues are given about the price of the Pre, though Colligan appears to have partly backtracked from previous statements suggesting that the touchscreen slider would need to command a premium price. He wants Palm to return to "mid-30s" percentages for its gross profit margins on products in the wake of the low-profit Centro but that Palm will also have to be "competitive" with what exists on the market by launch.
Sprint's exclusive deal for the Pre won't preclude international launches, Colligan says, while "additional carrier partners" are also due inside the country for early 2010.
The CEO makes clear Palm's dependence on webOS for the future of its products and now says that there won't be any more PalmOS-based products once the Centro is phased out. All regular devices will run webOS in the future; Windows Mobile will be limited to enterprise-class smartphones.
Additionally, the new OS isn't likely to be licensed to other manufacturers as Palm feels such a move is "not very sustainable." Many believe they'll "be the next Microsoft" by licensing their mobile OS to others but struggle to achieve any level of success, Colligan explains. He indirectly cites the iPhone as an example of this effect, which has seen a newcomer with a proprietary but well-developed OS take market share from Microsoft and other companies that put their software on phones from multiple manufacturers.