Should Apple Buy Palm?



Palm seems in dire straights. Cannaccord Adams has cut its estimates following word AT&T may delay launch of the Palm Pre and Pixi from April to June or July. Now other analysts are suggesting Palm’s 400 handset patents could spark a bidding war between Apple and Google.

Cannacord analyst Peter Misek said Tuesday he’d “recently learned” AT&T would delay launching the two Palm handsets due to what he said was a “long list of technical issues” with the smartphones. Additionally, the carrier plans to “sharply reduce its marketing budget for the launch.” Along with weak sales, technical issues have started impacting Palm’s relationship with carriers, Misek said.

Another analyst, Ehud Gelblum of Morgan Stanley, said Tuesday he believes Palm’s only hope is to close its manufacturing and license the webOS. However, others see Palm as a ripe target for acquisition, notably either Google or Apple.

“Palm may not have a big revenue stream. It may not have bright possibilities. But it has over 400 patents in the mobile and handset spaces that would likely come in handy should a company find itself targeted in a suit by Apple,” BNET’s Erik Sherman writes. Apple has said Palm could be on its short list of companies likely sued for patent infringement claims. Although Palm would unlikely be able to finance a defense, “Google could buy a law firm and not even notice the drop in its bank account,” Sherman said. Apple could also buy Palm to deny Google that legal cushion.

We’ve seen this bit of legal maneuvering in past confrontations between Apple and Google. Late last year, Apple acquired Lala, a streaming music service some saw as a strategic buy to thwart Google’s move into digital music. On the heals of that showdown, Apple bought Quatro, the rival to mobile ad firm AdMob, which Google acquired while the Cupertino, Calif. company was in the midst of negotiations.