Monday, April 12, 2010

Who Are The Potential Suitors For Palm?

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Pioneering maker of PDA's and Smartphones, Palm is seeking to get bought.  There has been speculation about who would be a suitable buyer, since the announcements that sales of the WebOS based pre and pixi smartphones have been disappointing to tech industry observers and investors.  These companies have already been named as potential buyers looking to buy Palm:

Microsoft:  The big boys in Redmond are seen by some as a likely buyer for Palm mostly just to get another smartphone hardware manufacturing asset.  Additionally for Microsoft, buying Palm gets two competing smartphone OS's (Palm OS and Web OS) out of the way in advance of the release of Windows Phone 7 Series at the end of 2010. 

Google:  For the king of search also being the provider of the Andoid operating system, seen by many as the rising star of the cellular industry buying Palm would provide Google with Palm's large library of Patents.  With HTC facing lawsuits from Apple from Apple's claims that HTC's Android handsets violate Apple's patents.  With Google potentially on Apple's lawsuit hit list, owning Palm's patents would give Google some rear end protection.

Apple:  Buying Palm would bring former Apple engineers who worked on development of the iPhone who bolted from Cupertino to join Palm to create WebOS.  Apple would expand their own library of patents to use against the makers of other competing smartphone operating systems.  But that would make Apple a patent troll, not a maker of insanely great products.  Apple wouldn't do that, would they?

Those are the likely suspects but there are other tech companies would benefit from owning Palm and are most likely to be looking at bidding:

Nokia:  Nokia's Symbian OS based smartphones maybe popular in Europe, but has virtually no users in North America.  After Nokia's licencing fee scrap with Qualcomm half a dozen years ago Nokia found themselves vanquished from CDMA carriers.  Buying Palm would give Nokia a Smartphone operating system that have market share in North America and Palm's licensing agreement with Qualcomm wouldn't hurt ether.

Samsung or LG:  The big two from South Korea sell a lot of cells in North America, but attempts to make the leap to Smartphones have fallen flat.  Making WebOS phones for a lower cost, rather than having to buy Windows Mobile or Google's Android would be more attractive for cellular carriers who would not have to spend as much money on subidizing the cost of smartphones.

Amazon:  For one of the Internet's most successful online retailer, selling WebOS Smartphones would be a similar business model as the Kindle, buy content such as e-books and music on a device that people have to buy from Amazon.  Adding smartphones to the Kindle would help Amazon compete against Apple. 

Intel: Smartphones are going to be the largest segment of the devices with CPU's market in the next few years, and so far Intel is on the outside looking in.  Buying Palm would not just give Intel a smartphone hardware business, but an operating system that could be used to spotlight Intel's mobile CPU's

The sale of Palm is expected to happen very quickly, the interesting question is not when Palm will sell, but to who and for what purpose.

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