One thing about Sprint ( S), it's pretty consistent. The stumbling telco has big plans to launch its make-or-break Palm ( PALM) Pre phone on the weekend of June 5, just days before the newer, cheaper Apple ( AAPL) iPhone is expected to be introduced. The Pre June 5 "launch lunch!" date was referenced Thursday in a Sprint memo obtained in smoking gun fashion by BoyGeniusReport. This isn't exactly a perfect Sprint-like misstep. If Sprint were true to form, the company would have squandered any leading-edge opportunity and delayed the Pre launch fiasco to some post-iPhone date.
But June 5 has a nice touch to it. It gives the Pre debut a small window of urgency. As one of the most hotly anticipated phones since, well, the iPhone, the Pre will now have about 72 hours to bask alone in the smartphone center-stage limelight. Sprint declined to comment on the Pre launch. It's worth noting that April was expected by some Pre watchers as Sprint and Palm's original target date to unveil the phone. Sprint never officially offered specifics beyond its intentions to launch Pre in the second quarter -- sometime between April and June. The touchscreen Pre, which has won rave reviews, could be the device that helps reverse Sprint's downward plunge. Sprint lost 4.5 million subscribers and swung to a $2.8 billion loss last year. For his outstanding work on that front, CEO Dan "Pretty Cool, Huh?" Hesse got a 2008 bonus that was 30% higher than planned. Sprint's stock is down 64% since Hesse took over in December 2007, the Nasdaq is down only 36% in that period.
Delaying the Pre introduction to the eve of the new iPhone launch, is only the latest in a rich tradition of Sprint missteps. Some standout performances include the beautifully bungled WiMax effort. Sprint pinned its future on WiMax as the next generation of wireless technology. The rest of the industry went with LTE. Sprint later cut its losses by throwing its WiMax effort into an unsteady venture with Clearwire ( CLWR). Then there was the transformative merger with Nextel. The true transformation came when high-paying Nextel customers got fed up with Sprint's neglect and poor service and fled in mass to other carriers. And who could forget the day Sprint got booted off a $20 billion Federal contract gravy train, largely due to unhappy government workers who grew dissatisfied with their Nextel service. No surprise then that Sprint would set up the Pre launch just in time to be trampled by Apple's iPhone media crush. Pretty clever, huh?