A recent survey of 4,292 adult smartphone buyers by ChangeWave Research found that only 4% of respondents planned to buy the Pre in the next six months. By contrast, 37% planned to buy Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry, and 30% planned to buy Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone.
"No way. I love my iPhone and the way it's integrated with my [MacBook] Pro makes it easier," reader John Cummings wrote in response to my Twitter poll asking iPhoners if they'd switch to a Pre.
Where are you now, Roger McNamee?
All your Pre belong to us
McNamee, you may remember, is the Palm board member who boldly predicted doom for the iPhone last month. "You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two-year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone ... Not one of these people will still be using an iPhone a month later." [Emphasis added.]
Not according to the numbers, sir. The iPhone and BlackBerry are just too popular. Only 4% of current RIM customers and 1% of Apple customers would switch to the Pre, ChangeWave reports.
That's telling. For months before iCampers lined up for the iPhone in July of 2007, would-be users oohed and aahed over prospective features. When a TV ad suggested that the iPhone would be able to sense where it was, the Web lit up with rumors that Apple had added a GPS device. Yours truly was interviewed for a New York Times story about the buzz.
So enticed was the iHorde that buyers lined up to switch carriers to AT&T (NYSE: T ) . Last year alone, 30% of those who purchased the new iPhone 3G switched from other carriers.
No one knows for sure how many users have switched to Ma Bell, but Apple had sold more than 17 million iPhones as of January.
Today's Pre isn't as buzzworthy as yesterday's iPhone. Few users are willing to switch. Enthusiast Eric Wu responded to my poll by saying that he has been waiting for Pre "since CES."
But when asked if he'd be switching from an iPhone, he clarified. "Nope, I'm with [Sprint] on their SERO plan -- can't be beat. Just hope I can use it with the Pre," Wu wrote.
Apparently Wu's situation is all too common. ChangeWave reports that only 1% of respondents to its surveys would switch to Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) , Palm's exclusive carrier for the Pre.
Therein lies the difference. The iPhone was bigger than AT&T; the Pre is apparently smaller than Sprint. Of course, we won't really know till the Pre is on the shelves.
A Callista Flockhart opportunity?
Palm is preparing for that day by positioning the Pre between the iPhone and the BlackBerry in what CEO Ed Colligan calls the "fat middle of the market." Trouble is, no one knows exactly what that means.
Even more troubling is the math. If 37% of surveyed smartphone buyers want a BlackBerry and 30% want an iPhone, Palm gets to slug it out with Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) , the global smartphone market leader, and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android partners for the remaining third.
I suppose a third is, technically, a "fat middle." But with well-heeled, well-funded competitors, it looks to be a whole lot more like Calista Flockhart's waistline during awards season.
And yet the Pre has its fans. "I would dump the iPhone for the Pre in a heartbeat. The Pre has *so* much more to offer," said reader Ken Snyder. Yet even he equivocates, saying that neither Sprint nor AT&T operates in his area. "I will pick up a Pre when it goes GSM or Verizon," Snyder concludes.
I'll grant that Palm deserves kudos for what we've seen thus far. Its webOS software offers a fast track to mobile application development and deployment -- Pandora created a version of its system for the Pre in just three days -- and its card-deck navigation scheme is more innovative than anything I've experienced on my iPhone.
Too bad neither is enough to make good on McNamee's hopeful prediction. Not by the numbers we've seen so far.