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Palm hires Apple designer

Gadget manufacturer Palm is reported to have hired a top ex-Apple designer in a bid to shake up its own product line.

Paul Mercer is understood to have been working at Palm for three weeks on a range of new products but Palm is keeping quiet on the details.

Mercer moved to Palm along with two colleagues from his own independent design consultancy in California.

Previously, when he worked at Apple, he helped develop the Mac Finder application, as well as the first user interface for the iPod. He also helped Samsung design the Z5 MP3 player.

Last month, Palm said that the company is gearing up for a push into Europe backed by a multi-million dollar marketing spend. The company’s senior vice president of global markets, John Hartnett, told telecoms.com that Palm’s worldwide expansion strategy means re-focusing on top European carriers and capturing hearts in the mass market.

“We are going to the mass market [in Europe] with a $28m marketing spend. We’re refocusing on the top players in the European market and we’ll be delivering products across all price points.” Asked what competitive edge Palm thought it had over established European players, Hartnett said: “Ease of use.”

But according to John Delaney, senior analyst at Ovum, Palm will need every cent of its marketing budget to penetrate Europe. “Palm in Europe has no brand presence and when you are going up against the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, that is absolutely vital.” Delaney wasn’t impressed with Palm’s assertion that “ease of use” would be its key to the European door. “They [handset vendors] all say that,” Delaney said, “it’s more of a hygiene factor than a competitive advantage.”

Delaney wondered how Palm would target the mass market, given its products are usually associated with enterprise users. “Its handsets are not designed for the mass market. They’re not sexy and there’s a real price point issue with Palm. The only way operators will run with handsets that expensive will be with long contracts and subsidies and I can’t see that happening.”

But Palm is also reported to be up for sale. Rumours over the past couple of weeks claim that the firm has hired Morgan Stanley to advise as the firm seeks a buyer.

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