Palm CEO: Room For 3 To 5 Winners In Smartphone War

jon rubinstein

Palm’s (PALM) new CEO Jon Rubinstein just opened his first earnings call in his new role. (Palm lost a boatload of money, as expected.)

His first big point, in our words: Palm doesn’t necessarily have to beat Apple (AAPL) to succeed. It just has to hang in there.

Because there’s “such significant growth” to come in the smartphone industry, Rubinstein thinks “there’s room for three to five players to win in this space. We don’t have to beat each other to prosper.”

So far, that looks like Apple, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, and… one to three more. That could be Google Android, Palm, Nokia, Microsoft, or others.

Rubinstein is probably right, at least for the forseeable future: Because the way the mobile industry works — carriers, not retailers, distribute and market phones, and carriers don’t all sell the same devices — it’s unlikely the mobile market will look like the iPod-dominated MP3 player market any time soon. (And Rubinstein should know all about that market. At Apple, he led the iPod team.)

At any rate, that should leave room for more than a couple companies to sell smartphones at a profit.

But here’s one (minor) reason to be sceptical of his declaration: He thinks there’s something called Web 3.0!

“We believe [the Pre] takes better advantage of the benefits of Web 3.0 than any other mobile platform out there today,” Rubinstein said in his pre-written script. Perhaps by next quarter we’ll have figured out what that means.

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