"For whom the bell tolls
Time marches on

For whom the bell tolls"
-- From "For Whom the Bell Tolls" by Metallica, 1985

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is either doing Palm (Nasdaq: PALM) a huge favor right now -- or reading the handset maker's last will and testament.

You can get a Palm Pre Plus for a measly $50 right now, or a Palm Pixi Plus for $30. Those are two massive price cuts, considering that the Pre Plus cost $150 last week, even with the requisite 2-year Verizon Wireless service contract. The original Palm Pre, which was supposed to save Sprint Nextel's (NYSE: S) bacon last year but never did, launched at a $199 price point.

Verizon's curious move raises two distinct possibilities:

  • Pres and Pixies are cluttering up store shelves and warehouses, unsold and untouched, and Verizon is desperate to get rid of this worthless junk. That would be the last will referenced above.
  • Verizon wants to promote these models for whatever reason, and it's willing to subsidize them just to get the ball rolling. In this case, Verizon's marketing power might pull Palm up by the bootstraps. Maybe.

The second option is not as grim as the first from Palm's point of view, but either way suggests that the Pre's fizzled launch wasn't Sprint's fault. Verizon can't sell the darned things, either, short of taking drastic measures.

And the wireless giant certainly has reason to clear some space on those shelves. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and its Android partners want to push out a few new models to Verizon this summer, and if the stars align just right, there might even be an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone on Verizon's horizon, too. A deluge of smartphones are coming to sweep away Palm -- and maybe even Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM) BlackBerry.

Does Palm have one last trick up its sleeve, or did the bell just toll for the company that made PDA gadgets cool? Discuss in the comments below.