Round Table: Palm for sale? | webOS Nation
 
 

Round Table: Palm for sale? 69

by Derek Kessler Sat, 05 Dec 2009 5:30 pm EST

Round Table

Welcome to Round Table, which is in fact not a table at all. Round Table is a continuing series on PreCentral where we pose a question to the staff and they provide their thoughts and insights. The question could be something simple like “what’s your favorite webOS app?” or something a bit more complicated, like “what do you want from the next Palm device?” Or maybe we’ll just chat about bagels, you never know. For this go around the table we have to address the on-and-off chatter about various companies being interested in buying up Palm, Inc.

Check it all out after the break (question comes from rlopin on Twitter): If Palm were for sale, what company would you want to buy them and why?

Derek: I think that the best company to buy Palm would be one that has not yet broken into the smartphone business. Companies like Apple or RIM already have a preconceived notion of how smartphones should work and obviously webOS doesn’t fit that mold. So who? HP. “But HP already makes smartphones!” you say. Yes, they do. But those are Windows Mobile smartphones and they’ve been selling in smaller and smaller quantities every year. For a while it looked like HP might actually be getting out of the smartphone game all together before they debuted the underwhelming iPAQ 910 last summer. Outside of the handheld space HP has shown a knack for innovation and has handily eclipsed rival Dell as the top PC seller in the land. Adding Palm, and specifically webOS, to HP’s portfolio would give them an instant foothold in the smartphone market (as their purchase of former Palm parent company 3Com is doing for networking equipment) and would give Palm access to billions of dollars for R&D that could lead to much more impressive handsets. While I doubt that Palm is actively courting potential suitors, anybody that buys Palm is going to need deep pockets and a hands-off approach, and I believe that HP fits that profile to a tee.

Dieter: Well obviously the first and most important thing to say is that Palm isn’t for sale and doesn’t want to be. The second thing to say that if Palm does go under (heavens forfend), what I’d really like to see is for Palm to just go ahead and open-source the entire webOS. This second option would mean that there wouldn’t be a single company that could take it and push it forward, but it would make an interesting story to see if any handset makers would use it. But if I had to pick one company to purchase Palm, it would have to be Nokia. Of all the handset makers out there, they are the most in need of a fundamental reset of their smartphone OS and I like to believe that they would have a decent shot at ‘getting’ the core philosophy of webOS.

Keith: So Palm’s for sale... in theory. I’ve given this some thought, and I know I’ll get deadpanned by our readers, but it’s okay, I am the resident villain. HTC. Yep, you heard me. The once ODM turned OEM, for those not in the know, that is geek for an outsourcing company turned Branded product company (along with ODM work still, e.g. Treo 850). They’ve done a lot to improve upon existing mobile OS’s using their Sense/Manilla overlays. Most recently, everyone is praising Sense UI on Android and recently updated/renamed Manilla (now Sense 2.5). They come at a bit of a hit to system resources but that is generally overlooked for the functionality they bring to the underlying operating system. Now imagine what they could do to webOS if given the time and branding of their own. We know the hardware will be good (they don’t always have gems, but they quickly learn from their flops) and they could really capitalize on having a brand specific OS even if it means keeping the Palm name around as a subdivision of HTC. Adding webOS to their lineup of smartphone offerings would get the push it deserves and allow it to survive, whereas I think other companies could muddy up the intended vision of Palm.

Robert: If any company were to purchase Palm outright, it would be have to be a private equity firm that would leave the current management team intact. Here’s why: The failure of Microsoft to maintain its market share in recent years, and that of Nokia make headway into the North American smartphone market has little to do with a lack of resources or engineering prowess, as the two companies I see as being the most likely to be potential suitors have plenty of both. Rather, I see their failure to make gains in this space as having everything to do with their management style and corporate culture.

The move of either company to sink the required $2-3 billion (at minimum) into Palm (a company that has yet to become cash-flow positive) would fail to bolster their positions in the market: Palm’s current management team would certainly jump ship due to a clash of the very corporate cultures I mentioned earlier, Nokia would be supporting 4 operating systems, and Microsoft would have to divert resources away from the vaporware that is Windows Mobile 7. You’d see what was once a great smartphone platform, one full of potential, mismanaged into the ground. Going forward, I think Palm will remain off the market, will execute on its plan to become cash-flow positive by 2HFY2010, and will indeed become profitable by the end of FY2010 as they launch devices on more North American carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T.

Kevin Michaluk, Editor, Crackberry.com: That’s an easy one. RIM should buy them. You can check out this video recorded back at WES 2009 where I actually make this “prediction” (or wish rather), skip ahead to 21m48s. My reasoning:

  • RIM’s BlackBerry Operating system was developed in enterprise, for enterprise and it’s strengths are as a communication/productivity tool. RIM has had tremendous success selling into the consumer market, but as consumer demands change what the priorities of a smartphone are, it makes sense for RIM to offer a consumer device. Palm Web OS could be RIM’s consumer smartphone platform, while the traditional BBOS could stay in enterprise. Get BlackBerry Messenger working on a Palm and we’re good to go!

  • Both RIM and Palm are companies purely dedicated to Smartphones. Nobody else in the Smartphone game can really say that. This keeps the interests and operations purely aligned.

  • RIM has trouble recruiting talent to their home base in Waterloo. Palm’s headquarters could become their US office.

  • Jim Balsillie would probably have an easier time getting an NHL franchise in Sunnyvale than he does moving a team to Hamilton.

Will it happen? Probably not. But the merging of CrackBerry.com and Precentral.net into one community would easily make us the greatest single website the world has ever seen since the invention of the interwebs!

And that’s what we think. Now there are two more steps: (1) we want to know what you think (the comments below await your thoughts), and (2) we’d like to hear what questions you would pose to the gang - send your suggestions for Round Table questions to roundtable@precentral.net.

69 Comments

Actually RIM and Palm would be a great fantasy union. Never thought of it until this article. RIM's OS is sorely outdated and once you combine webOS with the Emailing prowess of RIM, then I think that would be a knockout punch even to the iPhone.

Again, keyword is fantasy. However I will begin to campaign for the merger...

'the e-mailing prowness of RIM...'
I'm using a Strom for about half a year now, and... no... really, that's absolutely nothing I could associate with 'pro'.

RIM is antiquated technology. My office uses a (new) Black Berry Enterprise server that crashes on a weekly basis. Once I figured out how to get my Pre on the exchange server, I gave my curve back. So now, when the BEServer crashes (and it does often), I can still get my email. The only way that this could work is if RIM goes to pure push technology, and runs WebOS on devices that don't equate to pretty paper weights like the Storm and Storm II.

Then something isn't right. We've have BES running on an underpowered virtual server for years without issue. Maybe BES 5.0 is the problem... we're still on the 4.x series, but it never crashes.

I actually find that my Pre forgets to connect to EAS and I don't get email because of that more often than I ever had issues getting emails relayed through the BES.

RIM has an outstanding backend setup, but their frontend is sorely lacking. That's the main reason I jumped from my BB to the Pre. I had never thought of merging the two before reading this article, but I could see RIM buying Palm as a good thing for webOS (as the potential of webOS would be the only reason they'd buy Palm).

RIM/Palm might be a perfect marriage. Current O/S and webprowess are dreadful with BB. Merging that with WebOS's future might be the true "iphone killer". BB has always been a one trick pony with email, but tomorrow's needs will be all about multi-media and the net as everybody gets good at enterprise mail. RIM will need a new OS soon just to hold station in market share.

Seeing as webOS is the main well of potential for future Palm devices, I think the concerns over management conflict are pretty key. So yeah, the idea of Nokia, RIM or MS coming in might be a nightmare. Of those RIM may be the least of all evils as there's some potentially good synergy there.

Otherwise HTC might have the right DNA and could potentially offer great hardware advantages going forward. HP or Dell could also be interesting.

Heres food for thought;

Palm should sell/remove their hardware division and solely go software.

= More resources to concentrate on WebOS And license the operating system to manufacturers for a small fee per handset, say.

End result: Palm's WebOS is on numerous handsets and consequently an App ecosystem which eventually will be comparable to Apples iPhone, maybe even better.

Yeah, sounds great. Cause no one is doing that right now.

Aside from RIM and Apple, who out there makes smartphones that isn't already dabbling in Android as well as their traditional Symbian OS? There's no reason for a phone maker to choose WebOS (especially if you're charging them to use it) when Android is backed by Google and shares of the ad revenue garnered from said devices?

http://abovethecrowd.com/2009/10/29/google-redefines-disruption-the-%E2%...

So really. You want Palm to take on the giant that is Google? Ask Japan how waking the giant worked out for them 68 years ago...

IMHO the only reason Palm still exists is that their hardware division will pick up their software. Otherwise, I'd say it's more likely that they're hardware division would live on, using a different OS.

Like they already did in the "Garnet after era"....

McDonald's...the burger one. Think of the jingles!!

"You deserve a Pre today. So get up and get away, with Web OS!"

Or, Disney! Free Pirates of the Caribbean Themed Pre with upgrade to Premium Annual Passport!

And free mickey ears with any purchase!

IF Palm had to sell I think Google should go after them.
The Android OS is great but I find WebOS to be better in many ways (cards, synergy, gesture area, search feature, multitasking).
When I show my palm pre to my friends who recently bought a Droid they end up regretting signing a 2 year contract and not getting the Pre. (I blame Palm's marketing for non-geeks not knowing about WebOS)

I think if the Android OS and WebOS merged we would have an amazing operating system on a phone. With Google's reputation and marketing help I could see people starting to realize that the operating system on the Iphone is useless without the app catalog.

In the end I would prefer Palm not to sell out to anyone and to hold out through the tough times because If offers do come along. Personally I think Palm currently holds the spot for the best OS on a phone right now.

its too bad your friends didn't ask you for advise. My friends know I am the tech goto guy for things like that,

Precentral.net should buy them :D
I like how things get done around here!

Heh.. . That's a pretty solid response.

This may sound crazy but I think Apple should buy Palm.

I agree. The only problem with Palm is that they are not controlling enough of my Smart Phones. They should tell me when I can install software. My phone should tell me what it is OK to run. My phone should tell me when it is OK to take a dump. My phone should control what I watch, listen too. My phone should control if I use Google voice.

Yes, please get bought by Apple. I enjoy my Palm phones too much now and that is bad.

Apple would lock the OS down so hard, it wouldn't be worth taking the time to jailbreak it.

I would be comfortable with DELL buying Palm, but still keeping the name for the lineup of smartphone devices.

I'm not comfortable with anything that comes from Dell, except maybe their computer screens.

I've worked tech support for too many people. On the evil fail scale Dell>Compaq.

Nokia for the win.

I got 250 in my savings maybe i got a shot

Yep. You should be able to get a Pre off eBay. :)

I agree with the vote for HTC. I've been itching to see their version of webOS. Everything that they've "touched", they made better without taking anything from the platform.

I wouldn't be totally opposed of Blackberry. I've hated the devices for a long time, but a webOS makeover might make me change my mind. I love Blackberry's keyboards, and their joke of a touch screen device could only be helped with all of the patents and technologies Palm has.

However, I'm going to throw the big "G" into the mix. Google could have the end all, be all [which they may be on the way to anyway] of smartphone OS's if they merged android and webOS. They could finally do away with all the fuss of Apple blocking multi touch and other technologies. Sure, Apple would whine and complain, but there's a reason that they haven't been successful in stopping the tiny company, that is Palm, from using all of these different technologies. If this happens, and then HTC puts its spin on the "webDroid" or "androidOS", I'd be tickled pink.

Throw in a Tegra 2 chipset, OLED slider, blackberry style keys, wireless N, 5.0 mega pixel camera, track ball, make it a "world phone" [but leave it as CDMA in the states], throw in all the other essentials and ding-dong, the witch [iPhone] is dead...

@ janter...

I didn't mention it, but thought it went without saying. But I totally agree with you on keeping the gestures.

I think a major electronic company like panasanic, samsung, lg should acquire palm. They can provide palm with the billions needed to improve webos and to create better handsets. Also, they can help palm with parts like oled screens, better processor, better quality parts that will make a palm phone stand out about the rest.

*sigh*... If only there were an American electronics company like that with OLED screens. That would be extremely awesome.

But America doesn't manufacture anything these days... Have you guys noticed that plastic lids from restaurants aren't even fitting properly? Cup lids from McDonalds... IHOP 'n Go lids for the plates...

WTF, AMERICA?

Mozilla should buy them up. They have the direction and vision to take on such an endeavor ...

Now that's the first innovative comment I've read here. The only complaint I have with Mozilla is their codebase can get really clunky from time to time.

+1

+1 I agree Mozilla would be a great company to carry the palm torch.

That is a very compelling idea if I do say so.

No one will buy Palm unless it fails. WebOS has a nice GUI but isn't developed enough to compete head-on with other platforms anytime soon. Palm's insignificant marketshare depends almost entirely on its place in the Sprint portfolio which depends almost entirely on its discount pricing. The Pre hasn't proven that it can compete head-to-head for marketshare in any segment against any device.

If you're going to spend several billion dollars buying a company with two products, your shareholders will expect that they have actually seen somebody use one (not on a TV show).

I actually like the idea of RIM buying palm. They could toss the existing OS and build on the good stuff that webOS has to offer.

I think microsoft, HTC, etc would totally screw up the webos culture. If it was bought, I don't think that webos would remain as open as it is today.

*I* am going to buy Palm.

(pulls out wallet)

Anyone else want in?

:-D will you accept small bills? :-P

If you can hold the check untill next thursday, im in.

With the others adopting droid already, Id say Nokia would do that. Any other companies would just buy to mothball the company out of their hair.

Let's presume that RIM buys Palm. Would we then see a possible merger between Crackberry and precentral? Would Derek Tessio Kessler approach Don Dierterlone for a meeting with Don Kevin Barzini to settle differences? Would the next roundtable be empty, except for Don Dieterlone telling everyone he had settled all Smartphone Experts family business, Moe Miller of Nokia, Casey Tattaglia of Android and Don Rene Slacci of iPhone never seen again?

It's just business.

Best bet of getting bought out would be by some Chinese manufacturer that wants to develop a brand/presence in the US (kind of like the chinese car company that bought hummer)

None of the name players out there is really a good company to buy out Palm and have Palm or WebOS succeed -

Nokia already has Symbian and has failed to execute in the US market, if they buy Palm/WebOS but still don't cut deals with the carriers, then it is moot.

Samsung/LG/Sony - All seem to be headed down the Android path and don't really need Palm/WebOS if google helps them market their android platform and the 10000+ apps. (and now Dell too)

HP, culturally speaking, would be a terrible fit unless you wanted to completely kill off whatever existed of Palm, and butcher WebOS, then after it was butchered, release it as open source years later once it is irrelevant

RIM is too busy (and differentiated in the enterprise) investing in their proprietary platform, They get nothing out of selling cheap palm devices, but it would be cheap for them to release a BB Client app for the Pre

HTC is already establishing their own brand as a WinMo/Android phone vendor on multiple carriers, don't see any incentive for them to buy palm (though they could license WebOS from Palm and manufacture higher quality devices)

Do you want Palm to reign and leave everyone else in the dust? Here is what needs to happen. The United States Government should dip their hands in the smartphone industry. And their main arsenal - Palm and WebOS.

Hey why not? It seems like our government wants to take over everything else, why not our smartphones! (sarcasm)

Honestly... the Asian manufacturers who have the OLED screens and memory really do make the best fit from a business standpoint.

But the Government buyout proposition was reasonable, IMHO. If each of the 300 million people in America offered $9, "the people" could own it. When "the Gov't" owns something, the people don't necessarily own it, tho...

So you'd have to figure out how to implement some "anarchous", Internet-derived platform that allows all owners to rate different options for the company's direction. If 100% of people want backup fixed, only 76% want the app catalog limit fixed, & only 50% want the old palmOS memo app instead of colored post-it notes (tho, EVERYBODY should want Palm to trash webOS' current memo app)... then we can prioritize all the actions of the company. Feedback could be heard from all "owners", and other owners could even rate the feedback, too. Think Digg, Reddit, & FatWallet-style ratings of comments. I like the FatWallet idea best myself, because you can rate the initial thread, too. So, basically, we'd have PreCentral [with FatWallet-style ratings] as our "place of business".

Anarchy does not equal lawlessness. Anarchy means that no Gov't Agency, or "state", can tell me what to do... I'm supposed to be controlling it. I'd have no problem if "the people" took control over Palm with no assistance from "the state".

That makes about as much sense as 2 + 2 = 5.

Right now Palm is all about software. Any company that would want Palm would be buying WebOS AND the development team - including Jon Rubenstein. Any of the companies mentioned have far better manufacturing capabilities than Palm. So what company most benefits by bringing on board WebOS and the development team, is willing to offer a price that gets Palm's attention, and can convince Rubenstein et al that the buyout represents a great opportunity for each of them?

I was thinking of Sony, but I forgot that this is a Japanese brand.

I agree with Kevin. RIM's OS is dated and needs to be revamped. $3 billion would jump them ahead a full year in development just by buying WebOS.

HTC is out. They would lose a lot of their current clients.

HP, is also a very likely candidate.

However, one option that nobody has thought about is a "Partial" sell of Palm. 5-10% maybe more for a premium price (Think $20 a share). RIM, HP could easily become a part owner and license the WebOS if they are allowed to tweak it themselves.

The next question should be, will Palm License their OS to other companies like HTC, HP, Nokia, etc...

I don't want Palm to sell. I want to see them continue to make improvements to their hardware and OS over the next two years and then see where the company is at. I like where they are headed, the only real question is whether they turned the ship in time to save it.

Yea, I'd like to see the Pre2, Pixi2, and maybe any other devices they have planed... *and* webOS 2.0, of course.

I'm just curious about their plans. I'm sure an Asian manufacturer could buy them out and speed things up... but I wanna know what Palm can manage to come up with from their current train of thought.

If Palm had to sell or partner up, I'd like to see a chip manufacturer like ARM, TI, AMD or Intel take interest.

1) I don't think Palm should ever sell out.

2) If they did, I think Google and RIM would be the only two companies who would bring the platform to super stardom.

3) Third option. Sprint should go rogue. Give all other handset carriers the finger, buy Palm and own the network, handsets, and OS. Hey, it hasn't been done before...I know...just wanted to toss in some insanity to the discussion...lol...I've lost my mind today.

It'd be great for *a* carrier to do that, and I wish it would be Sprint... but, unfortunately, Sprint is about to go broke. They're gonna have to spend everything they have on marketing their expensive phones... or they could just give away the phones for free and say "screw you all" to the marketing team & the 3rd party stores/sites that are giving away their phones for FREE anyway. Heck, WalMart will even pay *you* $50 to sign a contract with them on a FREE phone. Sprint could do the same...

Sprint has to reverse the outflow of customers or they won't be around in 12 months. No joke, they've got their costs pretty much fixed now, and unless revenue swings up, they will run out of cash in about 12 months.

Palm will developer better product is the are small and scrappy and fighting for their lives.

to echo others, Rim Palm marriage would be ideal. Dollars to invest (even if they are canadian dollars lol), the likely hood of that marriage though is slim. More likely than not, it will be Palm on its own. Which in my mind is as scary as it is great. With the ramp up of Europe, and new carriers here in North America, anything is possible. Yes it is a bit of a gamble, but what business isnt these days. Several of the local carriers wanted the pre, Rogers reps have stated to me that they wish they had gotten the Pre over Bell, Telus is getting the gsm version is my understanding. If palm expands to other major carriers in the US real soon, market share will climb, from what i have read, alot of people do not like Sprint, and have stayed away from the pre. So, if its ATT or Verizon down south of the border, or hell both even that will fill the coffers of Palm quickly.

just my two (canadian) cents worth.

But Palm is not even selling to Canadians yet. You gotta wait for them to turn it on first...

I REALLY REALLY WISH SONY BUYS PALM AND MAKE THE PSP GO AND PALM PRE HAVE A BABY THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think Dell would be a nice first, since both companies are a bit non-traditional and they could help each other. By the way, if any one could turn that picture (Palm of the round table) into a wallpaper, that would be kick butt.

Google. I love everything they are doing lately. Anyone else on Google Wave. I'm loving it.

Well, I vote for Samsung. They announced that they are starting their own OS recently. If they buy Palm, they would have a more mature OS and could use their hardware to put webOS on. They can build good phones and they have the cash. If not Samsung, Panasonic/Matsushita they are a huge electronics firm with no real US cell phone presence. I know they make/made cell phones so again here is the chance for them to acquire a good OS and they know how to build hardware.

Nokia would be the buyer of Palm if it was going to happen...

I am thinking Sun... A very bright Palm logo! Or Cisco, imagine the Business implications...

I truly don't think anyone will actually "buy" Palm, but instead I believe either Nokia, or HTC for that matter, will partner with Palm.

Palm has what we want, they know how to get it to us, they have a name we trust and love. What they do not have, money! Any potential partner with the money to sink into Palm should be able to see that with a properly funded R&D department, and the slew of amazing devs that we currently have, Palm could create the all impressive WebOS device we all want.

If someone buys them out-right then you run into execs leaving, Palm engineering department being gutted, and R&D starting from scratch. In a nutshell, Palm needs the Mob. Someone with a fat bank roll that doesn't want ownership, but partnership.

Motorola makes a pretty notoriously rugged product, but neither they nor Nokia make particularly attractive phones. It's a good topic, and I'm on the fence for sure, but what I do know is RIM should merge with Glad so they're easier to throw away and Apple should merge with Charmin so you can wipe your ass with your iPhone.

I want to say as international user that Palm has to produce device without hardware keyboard (solid reliable no slider block) along with Pre and Pixi for the better integration of multi languages with software keyboard. It is difficult to use Pre when person wants to switch between three languages for example. WebOS has shown its potential but I don't think that Palm can move forward alone so Palm+Nokia seems best combination to me.

Sony should buy Palm; simply because they (Sony) have no clue how to run a cell phone business.

Sony will hand over their entire cell phone team over to Palm to run it the same way their PlayStation 2 & 3 franchise was run. One guy (Ken Kataragi) called the shots at Sony and his vision has propelled the PlayStation franchise. The Palm team will tap into the awesome hardware design and manufacturing expertise of Sony, including Sony

I am not in favor of anybody buying Palm honestly, but after some thought, one company came to mind immediately, Adobe. Fully combining webOS with the power of Flash would certainly make for one hell of a phone, at least I'd like to imagine it would.

Oh man that is so funny!

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I can't believe somebody would do that! Props dude!