Palm Dances Around Pre Sales Figures

Today Palm held its conference call for its Q1 FY 2010 results, during which it outlined the performance of its roster of smart phones. It’s a day that has been long awaited by investors, who are eager to see how the company’s flagship Palm Pre has actually been performing. And the results are in, sort of. Across its entire smartphone line Palm shipped 823,000 units this quarter, and its carrier partners “sold through” 810,000, of which the “vast majority” were the Palm Pre (the others were older Treos). In other words, Palm still isn’t talking.

Up until now, Palm has remained mum on the sales of the Pre — its flagship phone that launched with much fanfare earlier this summer, but was quickly overshadowed by the iPhone 3GS launch. That didn’t change today, but we can glean some information from Palm’s statements: the term “vast majority” doesn’t really mean much, but assuming at least 60% of the sell-through figures were from the Pre, that would equate to more than 486,000 units. That’s more than what some have been expecting (a Bloomberg report cited an analyst predicting 400k units sold, while a MarketWatch report put the consensus at about 500K), and Palm’s overall smartphone sales beat analyst expectations.

Still, it’s hard to look back at major Palm investor Roger McNamee‘s March, 2009 prediction that the Pre would obliterate the iPhone and think that the Pre’s launch was everything Palm hoped for. Let’s revisit that beautiful quote:

You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two- year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone. Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later.—Roger McNamee

Granted, everyone knew this statement was utterly ridiculous as soon as McNamee uttered it, but the Pre has failed to really reach blockbuster status by even the most generous definition. There’s a reason why Palm is not touting its sales figures the way Apple did when the iPhone 3GS sold 1 million units within five days of its release and 5.2 million in the quarter.

During today’s call Palm stressed that its success isn’t tied to a single device — rather, it’s about Palm’s webOS platform, which is now going to serve as the operating system for every future Palm release. It revealed in the conference call that more carriers are signing up for the Palm. And it will have a second shot at a smash-hit this fall, when it releases its smaller (and cheaper) Pixi in November. And a third shot after that, and then a fourth shot. Maybe one of these days it will get it right.