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The new webOS is out, and it looks good.
Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM ) operating system for its Pre smartphone gets new features and a variety of improvements in version 1.2. Among the goodies is automatic back up for the Pre's mobile browser bookmarks, enhanced support for digital images, file downloading, and better e-commerce support.
For example: Users no longer need to be connected to Wi-Fi in order to buy MP3 songs from Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) .
Palm is also preparing Pre owners to take further advantage of its App Catalog, a mobile software store similar to Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry App World, Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android Market, Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) Ovi store, and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes App Store, which dwarfs them all.
We're too early in the process to know if the App Catalog will be as attractive a host for software as the iTunes App Store has proven to be. Nevertheless, Palm is asking users to enter credit card information in their Palm profile. That way, they'll be able to buy apps whenever they want.
Investors should like this plan. Palm's one advantage over rivals is that webOS is built on common Web standards, and that could make it popular with software developers who prize speed and simplicity. Pandora's team needed just three days to create a version of its online radio station for webOS.
There's just one problem. As good as webOS may be, Palm today trades for 42 times forward earnings; Apple, the proven market leader, nets a bit under 27 times its projected income. That's a 55% premium!
Imagine that: Palm is priced as if it will grow at least 50% faster than Apple. Only if the Pre can do better than it's shown thus far would such growth be possible, and I don't see that happening.
But that's also just my take. What do you think? Is the new webOS the breakthrough Palm investors have been waiting for, or is this stock trading on a prayer? Please take a moment to vote in the poll below and then leave a comment explaining your rationale.