Should Amazon buy Palm?

Published: October 1, 2011

Have you ever noticed that the rumor mill just never quits? I think at any point of the day, you could sniff out a rumor about any one manufacturer you’re interested, whether it be Apple (that should go without saying), Samsung (Samsung Galaxy S III, anyone?) or even Amazon. For the latter, it would seem that they’ve spiced things up with the recent unveiling of not only a new line of Kindle eReaders, but also the digital retailer’s first tablet device, the Kindle Fire. And, as was suggested in rumors leading up to the announcement, the new tablet does indeed run a heavily customized version of Android, so why are we now hearing that Amazon is in talks with HP to buy Palm, and subsequently get their hands on webOS?

This actually isn’t the first time Amazon’s name has been tossed into the hat, when it comes to webOS. Way back in July, Jon Rubenstein was quoted as saying Amazon would potentially make “a great partner” in supporting Palm’s mobile platform. However, with this latest rumor of Amazon’s future purchase, it doesn’t look so much like Amazon wants webOS, but more specifically the laundry list of patents that Palm has under their wing.

I was originally going to angle this article towards whether or not Amazon should use webOS as their platform of choice, but I actually don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon, even if Amazon does purchase Palm. Amazon’s reliance on Android is pretty obvious – they’ve got a pretty standard presence on Android devices with the Amazon MP3 Store, it’s now just as likely to find Amazon’s Kindle software on an Android device right out of the box as it is to find carrier bloat ware, and let’s not forget the ability to download Android applications right from Amazon. Amazon likes Android, and with the release of the Kindle Fire and its heavily customized interface, there shouldn’t be any wonder why.

But, while there are plenty of people who don’t want to see webOS die, I’m not sure a company like Amazon purchasing Palm is going to see webOS actually used in any kind of way. If Amazon buys Palm, then it is to get the patents, to make sure that their own products are covered, and they can go about trying to take over the world. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Amazon focuses their attention on webOS, and much like HTC, Samsung and a countless number of other manufacturers that use more than one mobile OS to boost hardware sales, Amazon could release Android- and webOS-powered tablets, or other devices if they so decided. (I’m not talking dual-boot devices, but a 7-inch Android-powered tablet and, say, a 10-inch webOS-powered tablet. Options.)

But Amazon, while they are indeed releasing hardware that people want, isn’t in the same race as everyone else. Much like how Google is in their own race. Amazon’s got a specific way to win their own battles, to promote their own products and resources, but it doesn’t need to have webOS or Android or any other platform to succeed, more or less. Android is on the Kindle Fire, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. And, if Amazon were to release a webOS-based product, would they modify it as much as they have Android? Would anyone really want a webOS-based product that doesn’t work, look, or feel like webOS? I doubt it.

But anything is possible. Right now, Amazon is obviously staying quiet on the whole situation, but if something does happen, it probably won’t stay in the shadows for long. HP is currently in flux, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Palm in the aftermath. Or, just as importantly, it will be interesting to see what happens with webOS.

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