Why HP bought Palm

Posted: June 5, 2011 in business, Technology, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Contrary to (seemingly) popular belief, HP did not purchase Palm in order to put the struggling company out of its misery. Think about it: would you spend $1.2 BILLION on a company (or anything) just to kill it? Of course not.

HP bought Palm for webOS (and its almost endless cache of tech patents that puts those at RIM (maker of BlackBerry products) and Apple combined to shame). They did not buy Palm for the Palm name. They just killed the palm.com URL, which now redirects you to HPwebOS.com, the Palm App Catalog is now the HP App Catalog, the boot screen now says HP instead of palm, etc. But just because they’re killing the Palm name doesn’t mean they’re killing Palm.

As a matter of fact, Palm lives on at HP in its own division called the Palm Global Business Unit. According to those employees who have spoken to webOS news websites, such as webOS Roundup & Pre Central, they operate mostly independently. HP has also canceled working with Microsoft on the server side of their business in order to send that team over to the Palm division to help work on webOS. 

They also gave webOS Internals, the leading webOS homebrew development community, a server valued at between $10,000-$15,000 with no strings attached. Palm has always embraced the homebrew community & it seems like HP is continuing that tradition. As a matter of fact, when the Pre 2 was released with webOS 2.0, it turned out HP had taken several of the patches developed by webOS Internals & other homebrew developers for earlier versions of webOS and made them standard in 2.0 & up.

Yet still rumors persist that HP bought Palm to kill the company. They say they’ll release the final products Palm was working on before the acquisition and then kill the brand altogether. The products Palm was working on were the Veer (world’s smallest smartphone only available on AT&T in America), which was released last month, and the Pre 3 (release date yet to be announced).

What they seem to forget is that HP is set to release the Touchpad, their answer to the iPad, this month (hopefully). The Touchpad will be the first webOS-powered tablet developed after the acquisition. They also want to put webOS on PCs, printer, pretty much anything with an electronic display. 

But HP isn’t making things better on the PR front. After Palm made the promise last year that the original Pre, Pre+, Pixi, & Pixi+ would receive the webOS 2.0 update. But just weeks before the release, HP announced that wouldn’t happen due to hardware constraints. They said that during the acquisition they missed a release cycle and promised to “make things right”.

But so far, no details on how they’ll do that have been revealed. Add that to contradictory statements from their CEO & Senior VP, few details on upcoming releases, and an app catalog that has fewer apps than Windows Phone 7 which was released a year after the original Pre and you get a confused, pissed off, dwindling consumer base.

Bottom line, HP made a major investment in webOS, not Palm. Only the truly webOS faithful are willing to stick it out waiting on new hardware, but those numbers are dwindling. HP has made a few missteps in the last year and it takes the patience of Job (for those unfamiliar with the Bible, Job, rhymes with lobe, was put through a series of tests to prove his faith) to wait for the tiniest tidbits of webOS-related news. 

I and the webOS faithful understand why HP is taking their time releasing new hardware. They want to release not just an appealing product, but also a working one (unlike RIM, who rushed the Playbook to market WAY before it was ready and has to deal with the fallout of thousands of tablets that don’t even boot properly, if at all). But to the average consumer, it looks like HP is just dragging their feet, possibly because they don’t really believe webOS will sell. 

It sucks for the average consumer because they don’t read tech related articles and they depend on sales people to inform them on what type of phone or tablet they should get. And sales people typically push the popular or promising brands, not the best or most innovative.

I’ll do my part to spread the word about webOS. Who wants to help? 

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