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Does HP + Palm = Facepalm? 236

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sum-less-than-whole dept.
ChiefMonkeyGrinder submitted a bit of commentary on yesterday's news that Hewlett-Packard was buying Palm. From TFA: "When I first read the news that HP was buying Palm for $1.2 billion, my first reaction was that HP had lost its marbles ('clueless' was how I tweeted it). Why, I wondered, did it need to pay $1.2 billion for a dying platform when it could have used the increasingly popular Android for nothing? (OK, it probably picked up a few useful patents, as well.) I also thought that it didn't have the resources to enter the extremely competitive area of smartphones."
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Does HP + Palm = Facepalm?

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  • No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:34AM (#32029236)

    But the article basically explains why anyway. The majority of mobile platforms are Linux based, and keeping WebOS strengthens the Linux ecosystem. And objectively, driver support is where most of the issues are going to come into play. Between RIM, iPhone OS, Android, and WinMo, the market is already too fragmented for anyone hoping to reach everyone with a single native application to do so. What's going to be important is what you can plug into your phone (monitor, keyboard, printer, flash drive, etc. ) Apps are icing on the cake, and browser apps for the most part can get all the functionality of a native app. And given that the majority run Webkit, you can even get away with not testing on too many platforms. (Screen size and dimensions are the bigger issue anyway.)

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:35AM (#32029246) Journal
    Exactly. They can't just "have" Android because it is free. They have to develop a device, they need people who know how to do that. Now they can make an Android-like.
  • Lots of Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BillLeeLee (629420) <bashpenguin&gmail,com> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:37AM (#32029264)

    The author does state in the article that he was mistaken about the amount of resources HP has, which amounts to at least $25 billion USD in cash on hand, at least 10x more than HTC and Lenovo (the other big Palm suitors from the past week) have in cash.

    When compared to the other major companies in the mobile space, like Nokia, RIM, HTC, or Motorola, Palm seems like a very 'cheap' purchase in order to acquire an entire new line of business, along with their entire patent portfolio.

    Additionally, it seems other articles mention the same patent concerns since Apple is now going after HTC (but not Palm).
    http://www.businessinsider.com/apples-htc-patent-suit-could-be-another-reason-for-someone-to-buy-palm-2010-3 [businessinsider.com]
    http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/28/apple-vs-palm-the-in-depth-analysis/ [engadget.com]

  • by timster (32400) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:39AM (#32029298)

    The best thing that can be said about this is that it's a really bad investment to pay a billion dollars for Palm. HP is showing a lot of guts in refusing to accept the presumptive Apple vs Google conflict as the definition of the mobile computing war. Generally I would say that HP doesn't have the corporate culture to be anything other than a big irrelevant company like Dell, but if they keep taking big risks and standing behind them that could change. Most likely they will fail, but it would certainly make the next decade more interesting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:41AM (#32029308)

    called expertise. Palm has a lot of talented employees, a lot of IP, and a lot of faithful users.

    The problem is is that modern HP is going to treat them like the rest of their past decade acquisitions: like crap. I'd bet a good chunk of the talented folks are going to get shoved out or just flat out quit from salary declines or getting the "HP Way" crammed down their throats.

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:42AM (#32029316) Homepage

    If nothing else, I'm hoping this means we will see more hardware that uses WebOS, specifically phones. I think a WebOS-based tablet would make for a great iPad competitor as well. ::shrug:: if nothing else, as (many) others have said, at least HP now has access to all of the patents, IP, and talent that Palm had. Hopefully, this purchase will bear fruit for consumers soon.

  • Re:iPom? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:51AM (#32029430)

    Talking of the iPaq, I had been wondering what Apple would have to say if HP decided to resurrect that old Comaq brand name.

    If I was boss of HP and I wanted to really annoy Steve Jobs, that's probably the easiest way they could do it.

  • by jjb3rd (1138577) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:55AM (#32029494)
    When I was a young buck working my first developer job in college Compaq had the best little handheld ever created...it was the iPhone of 1998...it was iPaq. It ran Windows CE, which is shit today because it's hardly changed since 1996. However, in 1998, it was amazing. We developed some software for them (and the customers went with $4000 ruggedized B&W models as opposed to the $500 or $600 iPaq, which was awesome. HP bought Compaq, started making the iPaq with cheaper and cheaper parts. it got shittier and shittier and slower and slower and Microsoft focused on bastardizing it into a phone and HP said meh. Then iPhone comes along (which I have and love btw), and everyone's like, oooh, it's never been done before, well arguably not as good, but still, iPaq as a bad-ass machine in its day and HP fucked it...guess what they'll do with Palm, who it could easily be argued beat out iPaq only to fuck themselves with incompetence. While I'm at it, fuck Android...bring on the flamebait. The irony of the parallels between the phone computer was between Apple/iP* and Google/Android and Apple and Microsoft back in the day is clear. Microsoft copied from Apple and released an open, but shoddy platform. Google is copying from Apple and releasing an open, but shoddy platform. I may be alone here, but I hope Apple wins this one. I'm sure I'm alone in being excited about actual innovation coming out of Redmond with Windows Phone 7...but it looks like their glossing over some clunkiness (typical).
  • My take (Score:3, Interesting)

    by proverbialcow (177020) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:58AM (#32029532) Journal

    Posit:
    The HP buyout offer was announced after the closing bell yesterday - $1.2bn, or $5.70 - and after-hours trading traded $PALM around $5.88.

    Proposition 1: The only reason someone would pay more for these shares than the tender offer is if they think another offer is coming, and the last time I checked, the only other interested party was Lenovo.

    Proposition 2: I anxiously await a bidding war between two desktop manufacturers for control of $PALM, a company with a beautiful, technologically sound, poorly managed OS. Why? Because they *also* own Be's old technology - a beautiful, technologically sound, poorly managed OS.

    Proposition 3: To properly modernize BeOS, whoever buys them should work cooperatively with the Haiku project for things like, say, Wi-Fi or USB, and in return offer Haiku patent amnesty under $PALM's patent-folio umbrella.

    So, who do I want to win? Neither, really, since whoever buys them will focus on the handsets alone and neglect the fact that they FRICKING OWN BE, INC., and thus an opportunity to develop a netbook-OS that doesn't suck.

    HP's attempts at open-source relations have been like a high-school backseat tryst: HP climaxes early, loses interest immediately and leaves the eager and supple open-source community sexually frustrated, so to speak. Lenovo has been, at best, benign and neglectful. They at least offer the open-source alternative to Windows on their hardware, but it's not exactly advertised, and because M$ subsidizes hardware with OEM buy-ins, it's actually more expensive an option.

    Perfect world option: I'd like to see Google buy them, incorporate the niceties of WebOS into Android, and what's useful from Be's 15-yr-old OS be merged into ChromeOS. Competitors would cry foul but, come on, Android phones already outsell Palm phones, and both are dwarfed by Apple and Blackberry

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @08:59AM (#32029536) Journal
    There is no way that it would be worth 1.2 billion just for a couple of ok-but-not-thrilling phone bodies(and the patents, while nice, probably won't change HP's world too much; because they are already big enough to be locked in the Patent Cold War with all the other major players who have both patents and products).

    If they didn't want WebOS, they wouldn't have bothered.
  • TFA is a troll (Score:2, Interesting)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:19AM (#32029850)

    Seriously, did the article writer not read ANY of the readily available information about the purchase?

    Possibly he was too busy wanking off onto his Android, as he is apparently a MASSIVE Droid Fanboi.

    However, had he actually read up on it he would have noted that HP is MASSIVELY interested in WebOS. Particularly in bringing WebOS into the TABLET market to compete directly with the iPad. Hell, the HP execs practically reached through the internet and slapped us all silly with their enthusiasm for WebOS on a tablet! [slideshare.net]

    Of course, there is also the fact that while HP had a very strong showing in the early days of smart phones, their recent offerings have been very lackluster. With HP acting as partner and "sugardaddy" to Palm, Palm can begin to put out some really impressive smartphone offerings, along with HP offering the fantastic WebOS on an HP tablet. It's a great combination, and the WebOS platform has a great future ahead of it.

  • by cowscows (103644) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:29AM (#32030076) Journal

    I think there's two possibilities. Either way, HP's management sees that there's a serious shift to mobile computing happening, and that they really need to get in on it if they want to remain a big player. But the big question is whether or not they have a plan to do this.

    Possibility #1: HP wants to try to make decent mobile computing devices, and they think that they've got the best chance to be successful if they can control both the hardware and the software. That's Apple's strategy, and it seems to be working well for them. While I understand the benefits of what Google's trying to do with Android, the ability to fully control both the hardware and the software and fine tune how they interact makes a lot of sense. The WebOS seems like a pretty decent pile of software, so why not use that as a starting point?

    Possibility #2: HP has no idea how to effectively compete in the mobile market, so they're just buying something that at least at one point had some hype and potential, and hoping that someone comes over in the deal that can give them a clue.

    Either way, with the aforementioned shift to mobile computing definitely occurring, 1.2 billion dollars for Palm seems to make some decent sense for HP.

  • by Jezza (39441) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:30AM (#32030098)

    Haven't you just answered the question? HP has been in the PDA/Smartphone space since forever. Now you'll admit that Windows 6.x is hopeless in 2010 (that ship has sailed). Looking across at Android, things aren't pretty. Vanilla Android isn't cutting it, so everyone has to brew their own "secret sauce", lets look at how that's working out?

    Motoblur, is quite frankly a mess.
    Rachel, the Sony Ericsson UI looks great, but it wedded to a really old build. According to those in the know, they are having a hard time moving it to the latest build.
    Sense UI, seems to be the clear winner. HTC have had this working on several builds of Android, most users like it.

    So the odds aren't exactly stacked in favour of "doing Android" - there are pitfalls.

    So what's up with Palm? Well the Pre looked great on paper, so what went so wrong? Three things really. First is build quality, the device looks great, but the "feel" is somewhat lacking. The perception is the unit feels cheaper than it looks and is. Perhaps there isn't really a problem, but that isn't how it feels when you encounter a Pre. Second, the lack of apps. This is a problem only time will solve. Third is the perception that WebOS might not be around for long. Probably it being under the HP banner solves the last one.

    So what's needed? New devices to run WebOS. Sounds like exactly what HP can provide.

    So why are HP so keen. Think about the number one smartphone (yes, the iPhone). What's different about it? The hardware and software are built by one company, and no other company can build "clones". That's exactly what HP get from this. So me this sounds good.

    Off the topic a bit, don't Palm own BeOS? HP could do something with that too... It's just a thought - if you want to be like Apple, well you need your own OS.I doubt anything will really happen with that - but it would be nice to see HP do something with BeOS (and it would be the greatest comeback since Lazarus or NeXT Computer).

  • It's about the O/S (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Old97 (1341297) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:31AM (#32030100)

    There is no evidence that Android and its model – a free ubiquitous operating system running on a plethora of devices – will ever dominate the profitable end of the market. That’s a commodity market where being adequate and low priced is what it takes. Free and open doesn’t mean success in consumer markets. Linux on the desktop anyone?

    Apple has demonstrated very well the advantages of a tightly integrated optimized stack especially in mobile devices. They and RIM together account for the great majority of the profits accrued in the entire cell phone market. Apple’s personal computers are far more profitable than generic PCs.

    I see HP wanting to go up against Apple in the mobile device space using Apple’s own business model. Why would they care to enter an Android market where it’s so hard to differentiate themselves? If they want to push volume with low profit margins they already have that with their PCs. Do they want to repeat that? I doubt it. They’d end up losing to the Koreans and Chinese.

    Palm has been successful – technically – producing devices coupled to operating systems that offer significant consumer value. What they lack is capital. They also lack a Steve Jobs figure – a visionary willing to take risks who isn’t answerable to anyone in the short term. (He has his track record to back him up.) Will HP identify or hire such a visionary and then will they give that person the freedom to execute on their vision? If they do they will be a formidable competitor to Apple. If all they offer are some technical skills, capital and manufacturing capacity, then they will be competing in the lower less profitable tiers with the likes of HTC, Motorola and Nokia.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:38AM (#32030232)

    I see this more as a move to back up the tablets they are making, than an attempt to get into mobile (though they also have that now as well, with shipping phones to support and enhance).

    Android is not as well suited to the tablet space, exactly because of the physical buttons (the Pre has one physical button like the iPhone).

    The issue is that with the larger form factor of the tablet, physical buttons become awkward to hit. Also what side do you put them on - with a tablet it can make sense to use it in any orientation, but the more buttons you have to hit the harder they are to find when you need them, and Android has that menu button you have to use often while using apps.

    The buttons android offers make a lot of sense in something that is always held the same way in the hand, but doesn't scale well to larger form factors.

    One example. [youtube.com]

  • Aside from the multitasking on WebOS actually causing the device to be a bit more sluggish than a comparable iPhone launching apps, it actually *IS* probably the best device interface out there after the iPhone. It's a bit small, IMHO, they could have made it the size of the iphone and still added the sliding keyboard, and had a tremendous beautiful display.

    I did notice that even with 12 cards running, worst case performance really wasn't much worse than best-case performance. Though 12 cards did eat up battery life.
  • by edmicman (830206) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @09:57AM (#32030640) Homepage Journal

    What went wrong was that they premiered on Sprint. If they'd been on Verizon from the beginning, VZW would have had it's flagship next-gen smartphone six months earlier, and Palm would have it's device on the largest network in the US. I cannot for the life of me understand why Android and Palm phones debut on 2nd class carriers like TMobile and Sprint. Like it or not, there's really only two players in the business that can offer true national footprint - AT&T and Verizon. Not going on one of those cripples you right out the gate.

  • Re:Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:05AM (#32030812)

    For the day /. supports unicode :)

    Actually, at one time, /. did support unicode. Just that well, it's really hard to whitelist unicode codepoints, and crap like "force right-to-left" gets used by people who think it funny to reverse text. (The source code of the page doesn't show it, but because the unicode renderer obeys it, every bit of text onwards gets rendered right-to-left).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode_control_characters#Bidirectional_text_control [wikipedia.org]

    An old trick was to use the old "megamillion" character which contains several unicode codepoints (which follow with the character when copy and pasted). Copy and paste that character and havoc ensues.

    http://tipotheday.com/2007/08/26/wtf-is-this-character/ [tipotheday.com]

  • Herd mentality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:12AM (#32030938)

    Although John Gruber is one of the worlds biggest Apple fanboys (and can, therefore, be a tad biased at time) he hit the nail right on the head with this post called Herd Mentality [daringfireball.net].

    In short, the only way to win is when you control both the hardware and the software. Companies who do not, generally get locked into a price war with little to nothing else to differentiate with.

    Why be another Android purveyor when, if you get it right, you can be something much bigger and better? Of course, whilst owning both means you get a chance to win, it doesn't mean you can't lose (as Palm has shown).

    Granted, HTC have done well, but they're still ultimately constrained by third parties who may or may not share HTC's best interests and aspirations.

  • Money, money, money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yankeessuck (644423) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:30AM (#32032348)

    I thought the same thing initially but then I thought about it a little more and found one way it could work. HP obviously just doesn't know how to make/market mobile devices (see the puny sales from Jornada and iPaq) so just slapping Android into an iPaq isn't going to help.

    Instead, buy Palm who is actually pretty darn good at it and give their management and engineering teams gobs of money and marketing muscle to work with. Then buy out of the Sprint exclusivity and they got a chance to move some phones.

    On the other hand, if Palm disappears into the HP borgness then it'll likely be mismanaged to hell by the same people who've failed for a decade to do anything meaningful in the mobile market.

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