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HP looks to wash its hands of Palm

Fans of Palm, Inc. surely loathe the world's largest computer maker, Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ).  After all, HP purchased Palm and its webOS mobile operating system in April 2010 and then succeeded to run it into the ground in less than a year and a half.  But there's hope yet for webOS fans as HP is reportedly near to announcing plans to either sell or spin off the languishing Palm unit.

While webOS still has some loyal fans, it's now essentially dead on the market.  Once viewed as the strongest competitor to Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone, Palm's mismanagement led to its 2010 fire sale to HP.  If Palm was in bad shape before the sale, it quickly found itself in an even worse position.  HP refused to invest the capital necessary to make the webOS devices serious market entrants, squandering the strong mobile operating system that Palm had maintained and produced.

A spinoff of the Palm unit is a possible, but unlikely outcome.  A new Palm, Inc. would likely lack the cash necessary to offer a competitive hardware lineup, and lack the influence necessary to attract third parties to a licensing-driven scheme, particularly in the packed smartphone market.

The most likely final outcome is a sale of webOS (or what's left of it) to a mobile hardware maker interested in using the OS on some of its devices.  Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930) already unequivocally stated that it had no interest in buying webOS.  Thus the most likely bidders would seemingly be Taiwan's HTC Corp. (SEO:066570), Amazon, Inc. (AMZN), or Google Inc. (GOOG) (who could use parts of webOS, e.g. its slick multi-tasking interface to improve the Android operating system).

Package and parcel with the webOS deal would be the slick new Enyo javascript web app suite.  That package was shown to run webOS apps on Apple's iPad, and should be a decent fit for virtually any modern mobile platform.

It's important, though, to remember that much of the talent on the webOS team has already left or been laid off.  Thus if a third party takes on the platform, it will have significant rebuilding work to do, to restore the webOS team to full functionality.

Source: Apple Insider





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