At least one Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) reader is coming down with cold feet.

Town Hall Investment Research analyst David Eller is talking down his Palm Pre sales estimates, according to Barron's columnist Eric Savitz.

Eller originally figured that Palm would sell 488,000 units during its fiscal first quarter (which ended in August). He is now pegging the actual number of Palm smartphone devices sold at 416,000. Eller sees healthy shipments during the current quarter, but it remains to be seen how many of those will actually be sold through Sprint (NYSE:S) and Pre-stocked retailers such as Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).

Eller's grim conclusion is that Sprint will come in "dramatically below" the reputed target of lining up as many as 1.5 million Pre accounts this year.

Palm bulls will argue that Eller has it wrong. Pre sales estimates between analysts have shown fairly substantial differences in the past. As one example, initial channel checks may have been too conservative, in part due to limiting their queries to Sprint stores when it was Best Buy that was offering the more attractive Pre deals.

However, even the most ardent of Pre backers has to concede that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) pulled the buzz rug under Palm's feet when it rolled out the video-friendly iPhone 3GS around the same time that the Pre hit the market. Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) has also debuted its new BlackBerry Tour in recent months.

Palm's WebOS may have raised the bar with app-juggling multitasking abilities, but it's hard to compete with Research In Motion's firm grasp in the corporate world and Apple's App Store-fueled appeal with consumers.

Eller feels that Palm will become less attractive as a buyout candidate, given the Pre's revised performance.

I disagree. The Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) dude and Mr. Softy seem like natural sugar daddies, especially now that Research In Motion has priced itself out of their shopping-spree ranges. If the Pre does in fact stumble early on, a humbled Palm might be more receptive to the overtures of a cash-rich acquirer.

Palm's stock is still one of this year's best performers, but a little share-price deflation would go a long way toward attracting Dell to the dinner table, given its wacky dreams of mattering in the smartphone space.

Some other Palm readings:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has an iPhone loaded with free apps, and maybe four or five that he has paid for. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned here. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.