HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in cash, ending recent speculation over who would purchase the struggling handheld device manufacturer. On the surface, this acquisition appears to bolster HP’s mobility strategy with Palm’s webOS mobile operating system, carrier relationships, experienced mobility personnel, and intellectual property.
However, if you look under the hood, this acquisition has a key flaw. HP currently offers iPAQ PDAs and handsets that use Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, but these devices have had limited success among enterprise users. Will acquiring Palm put HP in a strong position against other competitive mobile operating systems vendors? Not necessarily. In Forrester’s survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers in North American and European enterprises, only 12% of firms officially support or manage Palm devices. In comparison, 70% of enterprises support BlackBerry smartphones, and 29% support Apple iPhones. Android devices, the newest entrants in the mobile OS wars, have strong momentum and are officially supported by 13% of firms.
HP did gain some important assets as part of the acquisition. Palm's carrier relationships are a plus, and HP can leverage its strong international distribution channel to expand the reach of these mobile devices on an international level. Palm’s highly skilled employees, mobile operating system R&D expertise, and intellectual property are also a benefit. In the short term, HP’s acquisition gave Palm a new lease on life, but given the intensely competitive mobile device landscape, HP’s $1.2 billion investment may not pay off in the long term.