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Palm tiptoes high wire with Nova OS in the wings: Is Nova too late? Palm’s Colligan says such concerns are ‘ridiculous’

Palm Inc. said yesterday that it is operating in an “extremely tough climate” with “continued challenges in coming months” as it prepares to launch a next-generation platform dubbed Nova along with new handsets.
Palm is widely expected to present its new OS and, possibly, devices that run on it, at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 8.
The new platform is aimed squarely at the burgeoning consumer smartphone market, according to CEO Ed Colligan, with Windows Mobile the company’s continued platform choice for enterprise customers.
Somewhat inexplicably – if that phrase can be applied to the stock market – Palm’s stock shot up more than 15% today to $2.54 in midday trading; its 52-week range is $1.14 to $8.94.
Asked if the Nova platform was arriving too late, given the hotly contested market, Colligan said that concern was “ridiculous.”
He acknowledged, however, that there would be lag time between the platform’s launch late in the first half of next year and a broad-based effort to attract application developers. Some application developers are engaged now on the platform, he said.
Colligan said Palm would return to profitability in calendar 2010, but declined to give specifics.
The CEO also ducked questions on how Nova will differentiate itself in a market dominated by proprietary platforms from Apple Inc. and Research In Motion, Ltd., and open OSs from Nokia Corp., Google and others.
Palm said revenue for its fiscal second quarter 2009, which ended in November, was $171 million, down 39% from the year-ago quarter. Smartphone sell-through for the quarter reached nearly 600,000 units, down 13% over the year-ago quarter.
Excluding charges, Palm incurred a net loss of $80 million, nearly double analysts’ expectations. But total net loss was $508.6 million, including a tax charge of $396.7 million.
Nonetheless, Colligan insisted “we are on track to deliver a breakthrough new platform and products that will bring a truly differentiated smartphone experience to our customers.”

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