Palm and HP presumably have a plan to lift webOS out of its abyss, but recent U.S. smartphone market analysis suggests the merged company will have an insurmountable task in front of them. According to the latest Nielsen data, Palm OS lays claim to a meager 1.3% of the U.S smartphone market share. To make matters worse, this 1.3% includes both webOS and Palm OS devices like the Treo 600P. Admittedly, the numbers of Palm OS devices are small, but it suggests webOS may actually have less than 1.3% of the market.
To put things in perspective, this figure is much lower than the 22.7% recorded for Android, the 27.4% for RIM and the 27.9% for market-leading iOS. Even the ancient Windows Mobile (14%) and Symbian (3.4%) grab more market share than webOS. For Palm to trail even Symbian is distressing as Nokia is widely considered to be a poor performer in the North American market.
It should come as no surprise that webOS market share is at an all-time low as the current hardware lacks innovation. webOS is a very capable mobile operating system, but high-end hardware has been lacking. Just look the original Pre, Pre Plus, and Pre 2. Those three handsets represent over 1.5 years of development and are distressingly similar. HP/Palm also offers the Pixi but that handset is not widely adopted and is generally regarded as a flop.
Palm needs to break out the Pre/Pixi mold and come up with innovative hardware to showcase its excellent webOS operating system. Granted some of the this dearth of innovation is a side-effect of the merger. The two companies spent most of 2010 focused on financials and not on product development for webOS. With the merger now behind them, let’s hope Palm will use all available HP resources to produce a handset that will propel the struggling company upwards.
Thankfully, Rubinstein has a realistic assessment of Palm’s future and is not looking to make the proverbial iPhone or Android killer. At a recent Churchill Club event moderated by Kara Swisher, Rubinstein conceded that Android and iOS are the market leaders and confirmed that Palm is shooting for third place.