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Palm confused over PDA sales figures

Did it ship 750,000 PDAs last quarter - or just 300,000?

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There's a very interesting discrepancy in Palm's latest quarterly results statement, posted last night and cover the first quarter of the company's 2002 fiscal year.

The release says: "During the quarter, Palm shipped approx. 750,000-Palm-branded devices, which brings cumulative shipments to more than 14 million."

That sounds fine, but at the close of the previous completed quarter, Q4 2001, Palm put cumulative shipments at around 13.7 million, up from 13 million in Q3. So in Q4, Palm shipped 700,000 PDAs, well down on the 2.1 million it says it sold in Q3.

Now do the maths for Q1 2002: if Palm's cumulative figures are correct, it means shipments grew by only 300,000 during the last quarter.

How can we explain the missing 450,000 PDAs? The logical answer is that Palm's release should have read "...brings cumulative shipments to more than 14.45 million".

But it could hinge on what "Palm-branded" means. Technically, Palm OS licensees' PDAs are Palm-branded, since they all carry the Palm-Powered logo somewhere on the packaging. Palm wouldn't be attempting to massage its figures by including third-party shipments would it?

Alas not - such scandal would make very good copy, but wouldn't account for Palm's 30 per cent rise in revenue. If Palm's shipments had fallen from 700,000 to 300,000, even with the higher margins provided by the m50x family, you'd expect revenue to fall significantly, not increase. Licence revenue can't make such a difference... or can it? If it does, the sooner Palm spins off its Platform Solutions Group, the better... ®

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