Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
Only those who were at the highest levels of HP at the time will likely ever know the full story of the spectacularly botched $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm and webOS. In the span of only eight months in 2010, the IT giant's plans for the operating system underwent a titanic turnabout -- from a foundation technology that would infiltrate every crevice of its device business to an orphaned open-source project ultimately sold to LG Electronics. Was the shift driven by core business softness that precluded further investment, the personal fiat of a short-tenured CEO or a justifiable reaction to disappointing sales? All three likely played some role.
HP purchased Palm because it was dissatisfied with the options it saw in the mobile operating system landscape. Beyond the deep relationship the company had with Microsoft for PCs, it had dabbled with Windows Mobile on a couple of smartphones such as the HP Glisten that never saw broad distribution. It had also produced an Android device, an obscure netbook called the Compaq AirLife 100 that lacked Android Market and was distributed exclusively via Spanish telecom giant Telefonica.
Filed under: Cellphones, Software, Nokia, Blackberry, HP