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April 12, 2010

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Ulrich Voß

I'd like to add one possible buyer ... a surprising buyer: Adobe.

Adobe IMHO has to embrace HTML5 (including all the cool stuff like SVG, WebGL, ...) someday and will ditch Flash and Air later. Palms Web OS would give Adobe access to the most modern OS on the market.

But I guess times not right. If Adobe were to buy Palm they's rather ditch Web OS and make Palm build Flash based phones ....

Sebastian Werner

Hi Tomi, small typo in the Samsung paragraph: Windows Mobile, Google Palm and Symbian - Google Palm? ;)

Michael Scharf

Tomi: I can see HTC or Google purchasing Palm for the patent portfolio and maybe some of the engineers. The portfolio should help protect both in the patent litigation going on now and coming soon. Beyond that, I cannot see any player buying the company to continue the product/OS line.

GeceBekcisi

You didn't mention and reckon Palm's (said to be) huge patent portfolio (again said to be worth more than any other value company has) while writing this and so I agree Michael Scharf, well said.

jp

Why not Google as a pre-emptive measure?

Ged Carroll

I am even less convinced by RIM given its recent announcement to purchase QNX from Harman. I agree with Michael Scharf on Palm's historic patent portfolio some of which such as handwriting have been proven to be defensible. The best people I know to exploit intellectual property like that in the telecoms space would be Qualcomm. Palm may fit in with their efforts around Brew, and MediaFlo, however I expect the manufacturing inventory, logistics and sales and marketing to be binned in a fire sale.

My biggest issue is why not just headhunt the staff you want and buy the patents from the administrators, at the end of the day a purchase will all come down to game theory.

I know people have praised the Palm Pre, but the only person I know who has one has had a litany of software-related complaints - and that's supposed to be their trump cards.

Murat

I really wish RIM would buy Palm, the combination of BB Messenger and push email with Web OS with qwerty support would be a winner.

Blackberry OS reminds me of Amiga or something, funnily enough it's probably just as bad as Symbian (menu within menu within menu) but because of the speed and the other features which just work people over look the ugliness.

kevin

Good analysis, Tomi, but I too wonder whether the value of the patent portfolio might carry much weight with a buyer. Some speculate that Apple did not sue Palm over it's Pre/Pixi because Palm could either defend well or countersue given its own patents; I don't know how true that is but it does sound plausible given Palm's long experience in the mobile handset business.

GJW

Impressive analysis! I thought this part was very interesting:
(...)"the US market is ruled by four carriers" (...) "The US carriers don't want Nokia in their back yard and if Palm was rebranded Nokia, it would get just as cold a shoulder and lose what remains of its US market share in a matter of weeks"

You are, of course, describing monopolistic behaviour (although this is formally an oligopoly (Wiki: For example, as of fourth quarter 2008, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile together control 89% of the US cellular phone market.) I wonder if this behaviour, blocking a foreign competitor, is sustainable from a free market perspective. Isn't this what they did to SE?

tl

Any chance of a carrier/operator picking Palm up?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Ulrich, Sebastian, Michael, Gece, jp, Ged, Murat, kevin, GJW and tl

Thank you all for the kind comments. Many suggested the Patent portfolio is valuable and yes, that is certainly a good consideration. Sorry I hadn't even considered it. I would say it is similar to the 'staff competence' and 'sales channel' aspects of Palm, not relating to its OS or its actual handset market share. But a very good point, thanks to all who mentioned it. A few specific comments to some comments

Ulrich - Adobe is an interesting angle. Very dark horse, but why not.

Sebastian - thanks, fixed the typo.

jp - interesting view but I don't see it as really worth doing, as Palm is so small in market share, with the current explosive growth (Gartner today said smartphones grow 46% in 2010) it would be drop in bucket.

Ged & Murat - about RIM, yeah, I don't think they are interested. But there would be some synergy yes.

kevin - excellent observation on suits and counter-suits. A strong patent portfolio gives you some protection in IPR battles.

GJW- haha yeah, well would be most difficult to prove, they do sell some modest levels of Nokia phones each, and can point to tons of 'evidence' that Nokia doesn't understand US market, from Motorola Razr style flip-phones to iPhone. Nonetheless, its a fact, Nokia relationship with US carriers is dismal. US carriers want total control of the handset, stamp their own brands on them, cripple functions etc. Nokia wants to build Nokia loyalty and keep all its cool featured and abilities available to all buyers. Serious clash of cultures on North American soil. Samsung and LG have happily adjusted to US carrier requests (and both have very strong CDMA background vs Nokia the 'leader' of the GSM camp) who have gained while yes SonyEricsson and Nokia have faltered. But yeah, would be v difficult to prove in court

tl - there is some chance. For example Hong Kong based Three operator group (world's first mobile operator group that had only 3G network customers, in several European and APAC countries) set up its own INQ handset unit. But then with Palm being essentially a North American player, it would have to be one of the big 4 US carriers. I don't see them as 'mature' enough to even consider that haha.. Could be but wouldn't hold my breath haha..

Thank you all for comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Derek Kerton

Tomi, Great rundown overall, but I have one gripe:

"So Palm could be bought not for its smartphones and its operating system, but for its staff and sales contacts."

If I had to pick one leading business function that has been weak at Palm since the WebOS MWC announcement Feb 2009, it would be it's sales and biz dev. Palm had a good reputation, long-standing market awareness, a hot new OS that everyone loves, the devices were almost universally positively reviewed...so what went wrong? Why so few carrier deals, and just with the least popular of the 4 US carriers? That hot little phone, the Pre, languished for a year, squandered all it's cachet and goodwill, and only afterwards is picked up by AT&T and VZW. And the limited carrier support meant low sales, and low developer interest.

It's a shame. I certainly wouldn't pick up Palm for their carrier biz dev aptitude.

ounkeo

@ Derek Kerton

My opinion on that is that Palm most likely wanted to replicate an iPhone moment with carrier exsclusivity. A very NA mindset and one that isn't really going to work unless you are as persuasive as Apple. WebOS had the hype, but I think the single carrier, more than anything, hindered it more than the negative reviews did.

Now whether the single carrier deal had anything to do with their inability to get other carriers to pick u their device, I don't know. It really shouldn't be the case unless the CEO of the carrier wanted it as an exsclusive; which is likely.

It's probably more likely that both the carrier and Palm both wanted the same thing thinking that offering it as an exsclusive would be more enticing (and more profitable for the carrier, of course).

IMO, it was making a (bad) decision that tried to replicate an event rather than trying to move a product.

But I do think Tomi is right about their contacts though. The company itself, any company really, will have contacts (and history of contacts) that is in play independently of a CEO's bad decisions. So the blunder with WebOS is quite independent of their business/sales contacts.

kevin

Rubinstein, Palm CEO, said that Palm went exclusive with Sprint because of its longstanding relationship with Sprint, and Sprint was willing to provide lots of money to do an aggressive launch (and make a big purchase commitment). He expresses regret, in hindsight, that the length of the Sprint exclusive caused the Palm launch on Verizon to occur after the Droid, instead of before. That was the big mistake; the Pre could've been the first 2nd-gen smartphone on the bigger Verizon network (ignoring the poorly-accepted BB Storm). Palm's industry intelligence was lacking to find out that Android would launch and launch big on Verizon.

I also think Palm erred in launching in June, just days before iPhone 3GS. If launch was in March or April, they would've done much better.

Ref: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/04/08/palm-ceo-puts-his-cards-on-the-table

Keith

If HTC was smart, they would pick it up, just for the patent portfolio. That's a lot to pay for IP to be sure. But it'd be worth every penny as insurance against Apple's litigious whims.

Conversely, Google would be a great candidate, depending on how they conceive pushing Android forward. I doubt they want to keep offering another OS. So maybe they'll be willing to shell out just for the patents. That's an awful lot to spend though, only to incorporate it into Android and give that out for free, whent there's probably lots of work-arounds.

The motivation for others varies. I don't think anybody else cares all that much about owning WebOS.

Polly

Good analysis, Tomi, but I too wonder whether the value of the patent portfolio might carry much weight with a buyer. Some speculate that Apple did not sue Palm over it's Pre/Pixi because Palm could either defend well or countersue given its own patents; I don't know how true that is but it does sound plausible given Palm's long experience in the mobile handset business.

white iphone 4

If I got a chance, i will prefer buying the iphone 4 white but not the iphone 4 Black. Who can tell me where is the whitewhite iphone 4? I would really want to take one.

Henry Peise

I just heard the gossip that since there's some technic problems on white iphone 4, iphone 4b is going to release. It that true?

AileenWoodward

I received 1 st business loans when I was very young and it aided my business very much. However, I require the term loan over again.

iPhone 3g Covers

Great recap, I can’t even believe you were able to write that.I got so much anxiety just watching that and I thought I was the only one who had unnatural rage/hate for Kelly, glad I’m not the only one, as I was getting concerned. These women show that you can age without maturing.

tütünex

You didn't mention and reckon Palm's (said to be) huge patent portfolio (again said to be worth more than any other value company has) while writing this and so I agree Michael Scharf, well said.

duşakabin

CEO of one party or the other may want something in terms of achieving greatness. Building empires etc. So its possible that some company steps up simply to try to grow their own company size,

formula 21 formen

Great recap, I can’t even believe you were able to write that.I got so much anxiety just watching that and I thought I was the only one who had unnatural rage/hate for Kelly, glad I’m not the only one, as I was getting concerned. These women show that you can age without maturing.

wedding plan

You had some nice points here. I done a research on the topic and got most peoples will agree with you

doğal taş

Of course then many are joining in suggesting many other possible candidates to buy Palm. Most of those suggestions do not make sense. Lets do a quick run-down of the major phone makers who seem to have an interest in smartphones, and which of them might want Palm.

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