Palm CEO: Linux smartphone to ship in H1 2009

Palm plans to ship a consumer-oriented smartphone -- based on its upcoming Nova OS -- in the first half of next year, while continuing to focus its Windows Mobile-based Treo on the enterprise, Palm's CEO said today.

In a conference call with financial analysts late Thursday, Palm officials gave virtual confirmation to reports that the product announcements Palm is planning for CES next month will revolve around Palm's Linux-based Nova OS.

Palm's "next generation" smartphone will ship during the first half of 2009, said Ed Colligan, Palm's CEO. But the phone will be launched in the first quarter, said Andy Brown, Palm's CFO, also during the call.

Colligan said Palm expects to leverage its established brand name and product development experience to create "unique applications" and device designs for one of the few growing segments of the consumer electronics space.

"As we gain momentum [on our new platform], we're going to invest in the marketing and selling. We really believe there's a long-term play here," according to Colligan.

The CEO was met by skepticism by some analysts, who took their opportunities during the Q&A session to question why a new smartphone platform is needed right now and whether Palm is releasing Nova too late.

But Colligan argued against the attitude that, as he put it, "What's in the marketplace is the best there's gonna be." Instead, "I think the best is yet to come," the financial analysts were told.

Palm's financial results for the most recent quarter, also discussed during the call, were less optimistic, amounting to a net loss of $80.2 million.

Colligan suggested that dwindling consumer spending and Palm's "aging," Palm OS-based Centro product each were factors in the negative balance sheet.

"The Centro is a year-and-a-half old now," he contended. "Whatever is the latest and greatest is what tends to get a lot of [wireless carriers'] promotional dollars."

Yet also in the near future, he said, Palm plans to announce a relationship with a new US carrier for its Windows Mobile-based Treo. Also, Palm intends to continue to focus on Windows Mobile as an enterprise platform.

Colligan turned away several attempts by analysts to get detailed information about the planned Nova-based smartphone. But, he said, Palm will aim the Nova platform mostly at consumers, at least initially. He then added that some long-time Palm OS developers have already been briefed about the upcoming Nova platform.

"[On the] OS front, we want to make sure we have a robust set of applications. But we haven't made it a broad-based thing yet, and that would be further out," he noted. "It's incumbent on us to build a really compelling product."

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