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PALM Investors: Some Stoked. Some Cautiously Optimistic.

Wed Jan 14, 2009 - 12:56 PM EST - By Annie Latham


We entered the week with Palm's stock price (PALM) experiencing a significant boost in the aftermath of the Pre announcement. Several financial analysts raised their rating for PalmÂ’s stock. Others were cautiously optimistic. The following is a quick rundown of some thoughts from the financial community.

CitiGroup's Suva:

Citigroup analyst Jim Suva, who had previously rated Palm as Sell, just raised his view to Hold, saying the company's newly introduced Pre smart phone "has the potential to be an iconic handset."

As noted in a story by MarketWatch:

"Pre looks like a game changer for Palm and [a] sell rating is no longer warranted," Suva said in a research note. "With the company's long-term viability in doubt, Palm debuted the best new handset we have seen in quite some time."

Deutsche Bank's Goldberg

Deutsche Bank's Jonathan Goldberg also raised his rating on Palm (PALM) to Hold from Sell per a story posted by All Things Digital's John Paczkowski. He quoted Goldberg saying:

"We are favorably impressed with the new device and more importantly with the new WebOS. We think the focus has now shifted from their mere survival to execution. The earnings model has the potential for significant earnings leverage, but our outlook is tempered by Palm's history of missteps. We think they can ship 1m units FY09 and 4m in FY10. The stock has run significantly over the past two days reflecting this, but as we learn more about the popularity of the OS and the potential for them to actually ship a UMTS version of the Pre this year we will revisit our thesis."

And Paczkowski remarked, "Clearly, Palm's situation has changed for the better. Now, let's see for how long."

CNBC's Goldman

CNBC's Jim Goldman seemed even more cautious. In his post titled, "Palm Investors May Want To Take Wait And See Path", he stated:

"It's a sweet phone but investors would be wise to consider the news that Palm didn't announce: most notably a price and a release date. "Some time in the first half" of 2009 simply isn't good enough for the 91 percent, two-day rally in Palm shares. Colligan reassured me that the price would be "competitive" with similarly capable phones on the market. Again, not good enough to spark this kind of rally."

Fool.com's Beyers:

On Monday, Tim Beyers of Fool.com weighed in via a story he wrote titled, "Palm Pre-vents Doomsday." He certainly was impressed with how "WebOS treats each program present on the Pre as a card in a deck, which means that users can open multiple applications, then swipe between them," and noting how the iPhone, "doesn't yet feature this sort of multitasking. Google's Android does, but not as elegantly as webOS." And he seemed pleased with the thought that application design could be easier, thanks to one of the admitted advantages of open standards.

Beyers closed with this thought:

"I like the Pre; I think it has the potential to be a serious competitor to the iPhone. But there are two problems. First, thousands of Palm OS applications already exist. There's no clear upgrade path for that software as of this writing. Nor is there any hint of a store, although common sense and earlier announcements suggest that there will be such an outlet for webOS software. Second -- and worse -- is the timing. Palm expects the Pre to be available through Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) in the "first half of 2009," CEO Ed Colligan told reporters during the press conference. But that could mean February or June or anywhere in between; we just don't know at this point. Not good. Today, the Pre is a contender. In six months, it may not be. Hurry, Palm. This opening won't last long."

Clearly, Palm has made a strong move out of the blocks, but it can't be satisfied with that. It needs to run with its hair on fire - to get the Pre into the hands of as many people as they can, as soon as possible. No looking back. No easing off. It truly needs to be a "Sprint" to the finish.

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