Is Verizon's (NYSE: VZ ) wireless group backing away from its earlier commitment to carry Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM ) Pre smartphone? Conflicting reports have made this question harder to answer today.
Late yesterday, Scott Moritz of TheStreet.com reported that Verizon had decided, "not to support the Pre." Bloomberg followed up this morning by citing a Palm spokesperson who reiterated the company's plan to offer the Pre through multiple carriers, beginning in the second half of fiscal 2010. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) is expected to remain the Pre's exclusive carrier through December.
What's to come in the new year is what worries investors, who sold off Palm by almost 5% yesterday. I can appreciate their concern. Sprint Nextel is fine, but Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T ) are the biggies, and Ma Bell already has an exclusive deal for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone. Verizon, meanwhile, has a history of signing exclusive deals for varying flavors of Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry.
Palm could be stuck with Sprint at the worst possible time. The company just issued 20 million new shares of stock at $16.25 apiece, raising $359.9 million (including the over-allotment option). Investors who bought at that price had to be counting on a wider distribution network for the Pre.
Then again, all of this could be needless arm-waving. Talk of Nokia pursuing Palm hasn't led anywhere, and my own speculation -- that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) would make for a decent suitor -- is likely premature.
Maybe the simplest answer to the Palm-Verizon question is that they're still talking, and we'll know more when we know more. Would that really be so shocking?
Get your clicks with related Foolishness: