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Palm Prē lands in France

'Not only typical French arrogance'

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CES 2010 Palm is extending the market range of its smartphones to France through a partnership with mobile service provider SFR, which will begin offering the Palm Prē and Pixi to its existing 20 million mobile customers - and, hopefully, more - in the second quarter of this year.

France will become Palm's fifth European market, joining Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the UK. At a press event on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show, Palm's Chairman and CEO Jon Rubenstein said that France was an obvious move for Palm "because of the size and sophistication of the market," and that SFR was a natural partner because the company had "been investing heavily in the latest 3G technology."

Jean-Marc Tasetto, SFR's SVP of consumer brand and marketing, expanded on that statement, telling the assembled press that his company - owned by Vivendi and Vodafone - was the first to introduce 3G technology in the French market, back in November 2004.

Tasetto said that SFR's objective is to have half of its current mobile customers equipped with smartphones. That's where Palm comes in. "Our mission," he said, "is to provide those customers - our customers - with the best smartphones in the world."

But Palm wasn't the first smartphone company with which SFR negotiated. As Tasetto said, "We started in the year 2009 negotiating some smartphones in Cupertino. We ended in Sunnyvale," Palm's hometown.

In addition to his praise for Palm's smartphones, Tasetto noted Palm's legacy. "We know that the Palm brand awareness is still very high in France," he said, claiming that over 70 per cent of SFR's customers recognize the Palm brand.

He expressed confidence that Palm's phones would find a market among "young experts, professionals, or big corporations," especially after the upcoming webOS 1.4 upgrades such as video capture and editing, 3D game capabilities, and the addition of a Flash 10–enablled browser.

Talking about why Palm decided to partner with SFR, Tasetto said it was not only because his company has over 800 storefronts and an an active customer-relationship effort, but also because "We are quite good as far as go-to-market operations are concerned - and this is not only typical French arrogance." ®

Bootnote

After a presentation that contained a number of veiled and not-so-veiled jabs at Apple, Jon Rubenstein couldn't resist poking one at a different target. After discussing some of the new games available for his phones, he said, "Maybe we can play a little Monopoly during that up-and-coming Intel keynote." [Insert rimshot here.]

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