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HP Buys Palm

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So, what does $1.2 billion buy you these days? How about a legendary tech company that is on the ropes but has what quite a few folks think is a great bit of software in its mobile operating system. It also allows you to shake up the mobile and connected device sector.

HP and Palm have announced that HP has acquired Palm for that $1.2 billion price tag and HP’s intent is to “double down on WebOS“, Palm’s mobile OS that many rave about. This puts HP in a position to go head to head with the other players in the Mobile Wars and indeed Brian Humphries, HP’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development is quoted on TechCrunch as saying “We’ll compete aggressively in the market with Apple and Google. We’ve got our hands on a very compelling operating system.”

Early speculation (that I mostly agree with) is that this offers a great shot at some day seeing WebOS on Tablets and other mobile devices beyond smartphones. It might mean that the HP Slate has a very short life indeed. In addition to the WebOS, HP picks up 1500 or so patents that Palm controls.

It has been no secret that Palm’s dismal financial showings had it up for sale with HTC just recently bowing out of contention before signing patent agreements with Microsoft. Between that move that got announced last night, and this announcement once again the ever shifting mobile landscape continued its shifting patterns. And just when you thought things were going to get boring.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

12 Comments

  1. Tim

    04/28/2010 at 6:08 pm

    HP releasing new devices running WebOS sounds like a great result to me (especially if they open licensing to it too).

    I’d also consider the possibility that HP integrates some aspects of WebOS expertise into their TouchSmart software, which in my opinion is severely bloated and lacking. Imagine if the two were integrated in a way that improved performance and opened up better interfacing for the user. Even less likely, but more incredible, would be if a WebOS API was allowed for this TouchSmart/WebOS hybrid, so that developers could develop apps to work within HP’s touch framework.

  2. Steve S

    04/28/2010 at 7:24 pm

    I’m disappointed in HP’s judgment. Historically, Palm software has been terrible! Since HP has presumably already signed on the bottom line, one can only hope that they will keep the concept of WebOS but dump Palm’s code.

    I’m already starting to reconsider my planned purchase of HP’s slate…

    • Joe

      04/28/2010 at 8:18 pm

      Sounds like you’ve never used webOS.

      • Joe

        04/28/2010 at 8:23 pm

        Sorry, that probably needs further clarification on second thought.

        “Historically, Palm software has been terrible! Since HP has presumably already signed on the bottom line, one can only hope that they will keep the concept of WebOS but dump Palm’s code.”

        I’m not sure where you’re coming from with historically Palm software has been terrible in the first place, but first of all, can’t agree there at all. There’s a reason that it was more popular than the horrible Windows Mobile OS for a long time. Yes, Garnet was kept around for way too long (probably because of the botched PalmSource spinoff), but I don’t see how you could say that it’s historically been terrible.

        And secondly, with webOS, you get an operating system that out-Apples Apple (or at the very least is in the same class of user experience) and yet is more powerful. What part of it have you used exactly that you find horrible? Not to mention that it has improved greatly in the short time that it’s been on the market (a huge update at the rate of once a month), and having the increased resources that HP will be pumping in will only help that.

        As for HP’s Slate, this isn’t going to affect that, but maybe future Slate-like products.

        The Slate is coming out in June, this sale won’t even finalize until July. Besides that, webOS is an ARM-based OS and would require some work before putting it on an x86-based tablet like the HP Slate.

    • Modnar

      04/28/2010 at 11:43 pm

      Heh to each their own I guess but I have loved Palm software for many years (still using a Treo 680 as my main phone as no palm availible unlocked Pre’s) as it often looked poor in comparison to other offerings (ie less specs / looks bad) but the simplicity of the software is what made me keep on using it as when it came to a pda and later a smart phone it did what I needed to quickly and easily as possible (still is easier and quicker do all my friends smartphones for tasks like calendar appointment input and viewing and emails).

  3. GoodThings2Life

    04/28/2010 at 7:31 pm

    I think an HP Slate with WebOS would be pretty sweet if they can get developers on board. Regardless, HP has a LOT of patents at their disposal now…

    • acerbic

      04/28/2010 at 8:21 pm

      If it meant NO Slate with Windows 7, it would not be sweet, it would be extremely sour. No OneNote, no Chrome, no Office, no printing, no connecting any of the billions available pc accessories, nothing but some crapplications for a long time to come no matter what developers they get on board. O Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, don’t let HP be that stoopid.

      • Joe

        04/28/2010 at 8:25 pm

        I’m already soured on the HP Slate. There’s no pen silo on the device, so I’m finding that leaked slide with promised pen compatibility to be highly unlikely at this point, and so yeah, my interest goes back to non-existent.

        • acerbic

          04/28/2010 at 8:36 pm

          I wouldn’t be so sure that the leaked specs are much less believable than some videos with renders or a purported pre-prod unit in the hands of Mexican blogger when it comes to the pen. You might even hope that even if there’s no pen silo to make the unit more compact, there could still be a digitizer and you just store the pen e.g. in a binder type cover just like you would do with a real pen and a paper pad if you use one.

  4. sbtablet

    04/28/2010 at 9:45 pm

    I, for one, am thrilled that HP is taking on the Palm WebOS and continuing Palm’s legacy. My spouse and I used Palms and Handsprings for many years. Loved being able to write with the stylus. (Yes, you had to learn Graffiti, it didn’t customize to your handwriting, but for it’s day, it was remarkable.)Loved the whole concept of the PDA.

    I read books on the Palm, kept my calendar on the Palm, studied my Greek on the Palm, just about everything. If not for the Palm, I would not have jumped on the Tablet pc. I could immediately see the power and potential of the tablet, doing what my little Palm did, only with more power. My cell phone plus Google calendar text reminders could take on the PDA functions by that time. (My spouse continued to use his much longer. Why? 2000+ contacts in the Palm of his hand.)

    Palm, IMHO, got stuck in PDA mode when it should have taken the lead in smart phones. They just couldn’t seem to make that transition well. By the time they did, they didn’t have deep enough pockets to do the OS updates and development to keep up with the crowd.

    Frankly, though, it was the build quality of the Centro phone that finally soured us on Palm. I got Joe one, and three phones later, we concluded they all had serious issues.

    I really like what Palm OS does on my friend’s Pre, but the utter plasticness of the the phone’s build turns me off. Pixi is worse.

    HP should have the deep pockets to take the WebOS and build smartphones, tablets, whatever, that can take full advantage of all the things they do. I think it’s a great marriage.

    • Joe

      04/29/2010 at 12:16 am

      Not sure I agree that they were stuck in PDA mode. Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky (original founders of Palm) split off to form Handspring, and then were brought back into the company a few years later, and after (arguably) inventing the smartphone with the Treo 180, the Treo series was pretty much the best smartphone out there for a very long time.

      The problem was OS stagnation. Because they licensed the OS to third-parties, they decided to spin off the software side of the company to not give anyone an unfair advantage, and from there things went downhill fast. The other companies ended up dropping the OS anyway, and the software company couldn’t get anything good out for the hardware company (PalmOne at the time, now just Palm again) to use, and so they were stuck using “FrankenGarnet” for way too long.

      Luckily, that’s since been fixed. Now with webOS, they have a great OS, but the main problems have all been a matter of resources. Throwing money at their problems should honestly do a great deal to help the OS, which in my opinion is already very good, and also should help with their quality issues, marketing, etc.

  5. smh

    04/29/2010 at 7:22 am

    :-o Voodoo PC fiasco once again..

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