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How One Poor Statement Almost Killed The Palm Phones

by Sean P. Aune | June 9, 2010June 9, 2010 11:32 am PDT

Since the news first broke about HP buying Palm, people have been speculating what exactly the purchase was about.  There was no question that it was largely about WebOS (yes, I know the it’s “webOS”, but I also refuse to write “iPod touch” or “Yahoo!” with their stupid little spellings and punctuations), but the big thing that no one knew was what would happen with the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi.  HP CEO Mark Hurd was speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference on Wed., June 2nd, and it looked like he had brought that all to a crashing halt:

hp preWe didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business. And I tell people that, but it doesn’t seem to resonate well. We bought it for the IP. The WebOS is one of the two ground-up pieces of software that is built as a web operating environment…We have tens of millions of HP small form factor web-connected devices…Now imagine that being a web-connected environment where now you can get a common look and feel and a common set of services laid against that environment. That is a very value proposition.

Taking that statement at face value, it looked like the life of the Palm smartphones had come to an end.  It was easy to believe as things really could have gone either way. If HP had stuck with it, they had a built-in audience already, and could have possibly grown the WebOS phones, but it might have cost them some sales from their iPAQ line. Also, there was a bit of a bad taste in everyone’s mouth over the two handsets that were out of their, it might have been difficult to overcome, and would have cost them a pretty penny.

The good news in all of this would have been that the WebOS would live on, just in other devices.  What form factors those are remains to be seen, and also if those devices will be able to handle the apps already developed for the platform.  We already know HP plans on putting the program into a tablet, and in theory all of the apps should work, but until we hear something official, we could also see them ditch all of their current work and start over.  It wouldn’t be the smartest move ever, but nothing surprises me in the tech industry any more.

The good news is that a little over 24 hours later, HP issued a statement that corrected the statement:

When we look at the market, we see an array of interconnected devices, including tablets, printers, and of course, smartphones. We believe webOS can become the backbone for many of HP’s small form factor devices, and we expect to expand webOS’s footprint beyond just the smartphone market, all while leveraging our financial strength, scale, and global reach to grow in smartphones.

Once again it appears that some times the big man upstairs at a company doesn’t always properly check his words before he speaks. When you say, “We didn’t buy Palm to be in the smartphone business,” that pretty much says to me that, well, you didn’t want the smartphone business. It’s nice to hear that the WebOS smartphone market isn’t dead yet, but it sure sounds to us like that aren’t that overly enthusiastic about it either.

What say you? Did it sound to you like the Palm phones were dead or not?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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