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

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.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

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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