If HTC buys Palm, what should they do with them?

If HTC buys Palm, what should they do with them?

Summary: There is speculation that Palm may soon be for sale with HTC as a leading possible buyer. If HTC does buy Palm, what will they do with them? Check out my article for four possible strategies to be employed by HTC.

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The rumor is that Palm is for sale and as I wrote earlier HTC would be my choice for a buyer because of their excellent hardware and past working relationships with Palm. As I have had some more time to ponder this possibility, the obvious questions come up about how HTC could pull this off and there seems to be a few possible strategies they could follow since it has already been stated they are an interested party in the possible sale.

Here is my list of possible strategies for HTC regarding a purchase of Palm:

  1. HTC makes great webOS hardware with no changes in the Palm name or brand, continuing with Android and Windows Mobile
  2. HTC drops Windows Mobile and/or Android and focuses on webOS hardware, keeps Palm brand
  3. HTC goes all in with webOS only and drops Android and Windows Mobile
  4. Kill off webOS to eliminate a competitor

#1: HTC just a hardware manufacturer

This is the way HTC has worked many times in the past and it really hasn't been until the last couple of years that people really started to get to know the HTC brand. In the past they made Palm OS hardware (such as the Treo 650), Palm-branded Windows Mobile hardware (Treo Pro), Pocket PC and Windows Mobile hardware (Compaq iPaq and many others), and now Google Android hardware. Many of their devices have been rebranded by carriers and other companies so keeping the Palm brand would be nothing new for them.

However, they haven't owned an operating system before, although what they have been able to do on top of Windows Mobile appears to similar to creation of an operating system. They could keep all the Palm software engineers and let them continue to develop webOS while they focus on the hardware and this may be the way to allow them to focus on a particular platform if sales take off while another lags behind.

#2: Drop an existing platform(s), focus on webOS and keep Palm brand

HTC is a bigger company than you may think, but supporting three mobile operating systems may tax even their resources. Without HTC I doubt we would even be talking about Windows Mobile today, however it seems that there is very little room for standing out in the crowd with Windows Phone 7 and I have never gotten the feeling that Microsoft has actively helped HTC sell Windows Mobile devices. It seems that Windows Mobile would be the first platform that HTC would drop if they needed to stay focused and add webOS to their lineup.

Google Android is taking off like wildfire lately so I doubt HTC would drop this platform. HTC released the first Android device and they are leading in the Android marketplace with their name getting out there quite a bit as a result.

The Palm brand is not as strong as it once was when everyone called the small computer in your hand a Palm device. The iPhone seems to have replaced Palm as the default "Is that a xxxx in your hand?" question we all seem to get from those not intimately familiar with all of these devices. That said, I still think there is value in the Palm brand and with the right hardware, carrier support, and advertising it could once again become a household name.

#3: HTC goes all in with webOS

I bought a Palm Pre Plus and have a Google Nexus One and I can honestly say that the webOS device is a better multitasker, is more stable, and has a much better gaming experience than the Google Android platform. There are a few things lacking in webOS, but I think HTC could help make it better seeing what they have done with Windows Mobile and Google Android. If they devoted all of their resources to webOS then I am sure it would get even better than it already is.

If HTC flooded the market with fantastic webOS hardware I think the smartphone game could be changed quite a bit and we could see HTC's webOS leading the pack. There is an incredible community of people who are fans of HTC's Windows Mobile and Android devices (check out XDA Developers) and I think many of these people would support webOS if HTC focused on just this operating system.

#4: Kill off webOS to eliminate a competitor

I personally think this is the strategy with the lowest chance of being used, but it is a business strategy that some companies do follow. I honestly think this same end result will eventually occur though if no one buys Palm and they continue on their path with questionable hardware and limited carrier support. I doubt it would be worth it for HTC to pay to buy Palm and then kill off webOS. As I have said before, I believe webOS is a better operating system than Google Android and with the right backing could be the leading smartphone operating system.

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Topics: Android, Wi-Fi, Software, Smartphones, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, HTC, Hardware, Google, CXO, Windows

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6 comments
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  • An ounce of common sense please

    You state that HTC is a hardware company (and a profitable one) yet they should consider dumping their hardware manufacturing business model to focus on WebOS?

    Good thing you are a blogger and not in change of anything important.
    croberts
    • Did you read my post?

      I presented the four possible options that I see and you have to agree that webOS only is an option. Whether it is a viable one or not, it is something to consider. HTC is not just a hardware company and spends a lot of time and money on the software side making utilities and interfaces for both Windows Mobile and Google Android platforms. If they bought Palm they would most likely bring in the Palm webOS developers as well so it is not like they would drop everything they are doing to gain webOS experience.

      I honestly think options 3 and 4 are highly unlikely, but they are options and that is why I presented them for consideration.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • RE: If HTC buys Palm, what should they do with them?

    I think HTC buying Palm, building quality hardware and enhancing WebOS along with WinMo and Android is a great idea, as HTC hardware has improved markedly as of late. I played with a Palm Pre Plus at VZW store and really liked the WebOS, but hated the schmaltzy hardware it was running on. Scren rotations were terribly slow, touch response wasn't all that great, and a customer was telling me it was a "piece of junk" and was returning it for HTC Eris. Personally I think Android and WebOS should merge, as they are both written against Apple's WebKit platform, but absenting that option, I think WebOS is the superior platform.

    I have an HTC Dash 3G (T-Mobile) and it's great with WinMo 6.5 on it. If HTC buys Palm, keeps the WebOS, and builds comparable hardware, I'd buy one just for the he// of it. Might even develop for it too :)
    podstolom
  • I'm not sure if HTC would buy Palm

    The only reason being is money. They do well
    but if say Dell or Lenovo are interested in
    Palm they can easily outbid them. Plus they
    have the lawsuit with Apple which is taking up
    some of their funds. Now if they can get
    someone to back them then maybe they can make
    it happen. If the sale goes quick enough
    they'd have some ammo against Apple which would
    be really good.

    If they did buy Palm I would think they'd
    continue making Android and/or Windows Phone
    phones at least for the time being. Maybe if
    the sales of Palm devices goes high enough
    maybe they'd dump one of them. It would be
    kind of stupid of them to dump both right away because they'd need some sustainable profits
    until they know how well they'll be able to do
    with WebOS. And for them to just dump WebOS
    would be dumb as well because WebOS is really a
    great OS.
    rkegel@...
  • RE: If HTC buys Palm, what should they do with them?

    At this point, what Palm needs most is a shot of confidence on the part of the market. They're going to be on the three major US carriers inside of a month or so, on the major European carriers by May, they're in Canada, and they could be in China by the end of the summer. webOS is a very compelling mobile OS as-is, and as you mention needs just a few additional capabilities to make it the market leader in functionality and user interface. If Palm can get their next-gen device out the door and promoted even passably, then I think they'll get over the hump.

    That said, a purchase by someone with deep pockets who could help them get there would certainly be welcome. Problem is, the longer this drags out, the more nervous people become and the fewer devices that will be sold right now. Whatever they do, they need to do it and move on.
    coppockm@...
  • HTC & Palm

    I think it would be great if HTC bought Palm. They have
    alot of options as to what they could do with Palm. And
    they could beef up the hardware behind WebOS which I
    think has alot of potential. In fact I think that WebOS
    could be a formidable competitor in the mobile OS market
    against Android & iPhoneOS if matched with the proper
    hardware. And this is their chance to acquire their own
    OS, as they are the ONLY vendor without ANY FORM OF OS AT
    ALL!
    Jimster480