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Palm for Sale, But Who’s Buying?

If somehow you have missed every other mobile news website in between your Internet browsing and here, first we thank you, and then point out that Palm is for sale. recently published the news and goes on to list some of its possible buyers.  Listed are mobile heavyweights like HTC, Microsoft, Dell and others as potential buyers.  Palm’s obvious trouble in getting WebOS into the hands of users have been cited as the company’s greatest woes,  however what is lost amongst all this news of Palm’s bank statements is what value the company still has left.  There are still two major assets that make Palm a key acquisition for a few companies.  See what Palm has to offer after the break.

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The first is WebOS.  While not high on many reviewers list of handsets, the Pre and Pixi were not often rated poorly because of the OS itself.  Issues with poor API management for creating apps and cheap hardware due to what I’m assuming amounts to lack of funds for research and development, coupled with Palm’s obvious failure in partnering with Sprint for an exclusive release created the issues.  The two companies most likely to purchase Palm, HTC and Microsoft already have significant investments in their own UI’s (Sense from HTC and Microsoft’s Metro,) and as the Smartphone market tightens it is beginning to look like there is little room for a fourth OS outside of OSX, Windows, and Android.

The Second asset Palm still has in their corner is the vast number of patents they’ve racked up from their early PDA battles in the 90’s up to today.  As patent lawsuits become more common (and frivolous) holding Palms arsenal may greatly benefit HTC, who is currently fending off Apple’s suits at Cupertino.  However with great patent portfolios comes great debt in this instance and for HTC this purchase would come at a crucial time.  Dumping money into a patent suit, while preparing for the launch of several major handsets like the Desire, the Legend, and some number of unannounced Windows 7 Phones may not leave HTC with as much spending money as it appears to have at the moment.

Regardless of who pulls the trigger on this acquisition any smart investors will sit back and watch Palm fester and hope for them to file bankruptcy near the end of the year to break with the debt, because unless Apple snaps them up for some weird reason (just not their style) then I doubt any other interested parties have the cash on hand to do so, other than HTC or Microsoft.  Dell just recently dumped all sorts of money into development for mobile handsets, so acquiring a whole new company to bring in would seem wasteful.  Microsoft has been mentioned but I don’t think they’re mentioned enough.  They have a long history with Palm in the PDA battles of the mid and late 90’s that created a lot of patents they may want to get their hands on, and it’s not like Redmond is suffering from a lack of cash even with their recent investments in a single tasking UI (please buy Palm and use their multi-tasking so I can stop bitching about this.)  Plus some of Palms most recently successful endeavors included both Palm and WinMo, i.e. Treo Series.  I’m thinking this could go either way but personally the big opportunity I see that no one has mentioned is with Nokia.  If they have any money, and happen to be hanging out around here, I’d tell them to grab a hold of this one because Symbian, although vast in market share, has had some pretty crappy overall reception with the likes of the N900 (so disappointed by this phone.)  I think the N900 hardware with WebOS would be freaking phenomenal. Who do you guys think will end up with Palm in their pocket?