The other shoe has dropped. After months of reports on Palm's financial woes and then its putting itself up for sale, Hewlett-Packard has agreed to buy the iconic PDA maker that flamed out so painfully in the smartphone era launched by Apple's iPhone, a victim of internal obession with endless reorganizations rather than product innovation. A few years ago, Palm brought in ex-Apple exec Jon Rubinstein, a respected and innovative technologist involved with the iPod and other Apple hits, and the fruit was WebOS, a competent but largely copycat mobile OS that never stood apart in a meaningful way from the iPhone. Google's Android ended up stealing any thunder WebOS might have had.
But the purchase won't necessarily save Palm -- it's been bought before by 3Com, after all, only to be spit out in even weaker condition. At first, HP seems an odd choice -- it's not in the mobile business, after all.
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Why the other suitors likely pulled out
Other rumored suitors were in the mobile business and had plausible use for WebOS: HTC could have become independent of Windows Mobile, now in a funk as the world awaits Windows Phone 7, and of Google's Android, an increasingly fractured platform that runs the risk of being as meaninglessly ubiquitous as Java, with its 1 billion phones and thousands of versions, but no app community.
Nokia also could have used WebOS to get a modern mobile operating system now, not in the five or more years it will play with MeeGo, its successor to Symbian, an operating system that only Europeans seem to love, though iPhone adoption there is showing that particular love fest is nearing an end as well.