It may seem strange now that HP owns Palm and is preparing to make a major push of webOS across devices as wide-ranging as smartphones, tablets and even printers, but there was a time just a few months ago when Palm’s major value was perceived to be their library of patents and not their mobile, multi-touch operating system.
At the time, HTC was seen as a potential buyer, largely because securing Palm’s patents would allow them to beat back a massive legal attack currently being made against them by Apple in relation to patents pertaining to their Android smartphones. HTC eventually withdrew, but a new report suggests that another party might have been interested in picking up Palm: Apple itself.
According to the report, Apple — like HTC — was primarily interested in Palm’s intellectual properties, but what’s interesting is that they intended on keeping webOS alive, subsidizing Palm’s operations as a means of challenging RIM’s dominance in the keyboarded segment of the smartphone industry.
That’s a bit hard to swallow. Apple was hardly likely to continue to support two smartphone operating systems. A patent grab combined with folding Palm’s employees into the iOS team makes a lot more sense.
At the end of the day, HP outbid Apple, and the rest is history. Personally, I’m glad they did: HP at least intends to use webOS, and while it isn’t iOS, Palm’s last operating system is a truly great one that doesn’t deserve to be thrown on the trash heap of tech history. Apple needs smart competition to continue to exceed, and another solid mobile operating system out there helps keep the fire under Cupertino’s back side well lit.