What Sprint Nextel's Pre Marketing Might Mean

Sprint Nextel has been criticized by some observers for not spending more money to promote the Palm Pre while Sprint Nextel has a six-month exclusive to market the device.

So here's a thought: maybe Sprint Nextel has concluded that the benefit from heavier promotion over the first six months will not provide a big-enough payback, and might simply pave the way for Verizon Wireless to sell even more Palm Pres when it begins selling the device after the Sprint exclusive ends.

Given the Federal Communications Commission's inquiry into handset exclusivity and the practice of tying handset discounts to contracts, perhaps we ought to consider just a bit more seriously the argument that handset exclusivity might provide consumer benefits.

Perhaps Sprint Nextel's allegedly tepid support for the Pre is a direct reflection of estimated benefit. Perhaps the inability to obtain a longer-term exclusive so dilutes the financial upside that it isn't worth more promotion.

Nor is it altogether clear consumers have clearly understood that contract-free service that requires users to pay retail prices for handsets might be a bit painful.

That isn't to say consumers should be barred from buying unlocked handsets at full retail. Prepaid customers do it all the time. But neither should customers be prohibited from buying subsidized handsets, with contracts, if that is what they prefer.

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