Palm Pre Sales May Fail to Match IPhone Debut as Economy Flags

Palm Inc., whose stock has almost doubled this year on the buzz over its new Pre phone, may sell less than half as many devices as Apple Inc.'s iPhone did in its debut.

The Pre wowed visitors at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January with its WebOS operating system and wireless charger, winning the event's top honor and pushing the stock up more than 80 percent over two days. Palm may ship 2.6 million in the first year, according to the median estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Apple sold 6.1 million iPhones in the year after the 2007 debut, before the worst economic slump in a quarter-century sapped consumer spending. Palm, whose sales fell 71 percent last quarter, has neither the base of Apple devotees from which to draw nor the BlackBerry's niche in the corporate world, said Andy Bateman, who leads the New York office of Interbrand.

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