Palm Waves Goodbye to Retail

When did everyone decide to be Apple?

I'm serious. Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) is trying a retail concept. So are Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) . Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , too.

Well, until yesterday, that is.

Bloomberg News reports that the one-time smartphone king -- whose Treo still inspires fans -- has decided that its carrier partners, including Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , can do a better job selling its wares retail than it can.

Palm will close seven of its eight stand-alone stores and 26 Airport Wireless stores by the end of next month, Bloomberg says. Shocking.

This is a sad tale, Fool. Not only has the Treo lost ground to RIM's BlackBerry, Apple's iPhone, and Nokia's elegant designs, but Palm, once an innovator, has lost its edge. A cash and talent infusion from Elevation Partners could restore some of the lost glory, but irrelevance looms with each miserable quarter that Palm puts up.

Here's the good news: Palm has rarely crowed about its success in retail, which means there probably wasn't much of it. Dumping these locations will free up cash that's desperately needed for research and development.

And it'll focus a team that has lacked discipline. Witness the rise and very rapid fall of the Foleo.

Time is running out for Palm. To recover its lost glory it needs to do less, not more. And what it does do, it needs to do better than anyone else in its market. A few stores were never going to provide that kind of edge.

Good riddance, retail.

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