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With Palm’s (PALM) quarterly earnings due Thursday — along with Jon Rubinstein’s debut performance as CEO — analysts have started to place their bets on what the quarter will show.

First out of the box — or at least, first in our inbox — is RBC Capital’s Mike Abramsky, who expects investors to look past soft fourth-quarter results and focus on the potential for growth in the next fiscal year.

Specifically, his report to clients reports …

  • 150,000 Pres. Having estimated that Sprint (S) sold 50,000 Pres in the device’s June 6-7 opening weekend, Abramsky now estimates total sales to date of 150,000 units (up from his previous estimate of 120,000)
  • Strong demand. Citing a June ChangeWave survey that showed Palm buying intentions doubling between March and June, to 8% from 4%, Abramsky says demand for the Pre is strong and inventories low. Most Sprint stores are sold out despite daily replenishments.
  • More handsets. Abramsky is expecting Palm to release a smaller $99 model before the end of fiscal 2009 and additional devices in calendar 2010.
  • More carriers. In additional to Bell Canada, Abramsky is looking for Palm to strike deals with O2, AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), Telefonica, and Vodafone by the first half of 2010.

Although interest in Palm Pre is accelerating, as evidenced by the RBC/ChangeWave chart below, it still lags behind Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Research in Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry.

Apple says it sold more than 1 million iPhone 3GSs by the end of its first weekend of sales, 20 times the number Pres sold in its debut. Apple’s number, however, covers three days of sales (vs. the Palm’s two) and includes pre-orders and units shipped to overseas carriers.

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