It’s been a massive week for tech news. Apple’s 3G iPad finally hit the streets, the Hubble telescope celebrated it’s 20th anniversary and Justin Bieber’s iPhone app has yet to be removed from the App Store. Arguably the biggest news this week though, and possibly this year, is that HP has purchased Palm for $1.2 billion.
The story goes something like this: Palm dominated the mobile market through the 90s, but by the time the iPhone was announced in 2007 Palm was so far behind the curve they were all but irrelevant. Regrouping in early 2009, Palm hired some ex-Apple staff and staged a daring attempt to unseat the iPhone as mobile king.
With a product and OS that were a little green for the market, Palm over-hyped and under-sold their first two major releases, the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi, and in April 2010 began touting themselves for sale. With some interest from Lenovo and HTC, the final buyer was HP.
I had mixed feelings about this when I first heard the news. HP is one of the most innovative of the Windows box manufacturers, but they are still very much tied to Microsoft and the Microsoft way.
After giving it some thought, I have hope that this merger will finally create a competitor to the mobile behemoth that Apple is fast becoming. People dislike when large companies act to protect their interests and the future of their own business models, particularly at the expense of other companies and their customers, but the only real protection against this is good old fashioned competition.
HP has the money and the industry clout to release a mobile device running an OS that isn’t Windows and make it stick, and Palm’s Web OS has shown enough promise and innovation that with a few tweaks and a little more attention to detail it could stand alone as an alternative to the Apple mindset.
I still have concerns, but it seems to me that this route is preferable to Palm disappearing into obscurity, or being purchased by a company whose only goal would be to eliminate a potential competitor. I’ve always said if I didn’t buy Apple I’d buy HP. Perhaps next time I make a mobile device purchase, my decision will be a little tougher.