Another day and another potential buyer of Palm has been crossed off the list — HTC is reportedly passing on the opportunity to purchase the troubled smartphone maker. Which means all signs are now pointing to Lenovo making a bid, especially in light of its recent decision to jump back into the smartphone market. But at this point, I don’t see Lenovo — or any other handset maker, for that matter — spending the billion or so dollars some expect Palm (s palm) would fetch, for I think it’s too late for its webOS to compete against the platforms of Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog).
With application developers focusing the lions’ share of their attention on creating titles for iPhone and Android handsets, any company considering involvement with Palm faces a limited ecosystem for software as compared to larger rivals. As a former Palm Pre owner, webOS was a joy to use, but it never truly gained the attention of developers, and so without a vast library of high-quality apps to choose from, I jumped ship.
Multitasking is good, but not enough
To be sure, I’ve owned or used phones from every platform and can say unequivocally that Palm’s webOS handsets do multitasking better than any other smartphone device, thanks to their innovative card system. But it’s not enough of a differentiator; if it were, consumers would shun Apple’s iPhone, which offers limited multitasking for native Apple software.
And Lenovo has already started to build atop of the multitasking Android OS; it introduced the world to its Android-powered Lephone in February. Its decision was an easy one to understand: The operating system doesn’t cost the company anything and it can leverage the growing popularity of Google’s platform in the process.
Why not a Facebook phone?
So given that Lenovo’s already made its support for the Android platform clear, who’s left to save Palm? Maybe it’s time to step outside the box and consider a less traditional option: Facebook. The webOS Synergy feature can already be used to link a Palm phone with a Facebook profile for easier contact management. In light of the social networking site’s plan to make the entire web social, that’s just the tip of the potential iceberg.
Imagine that Facebook partners with and pays Palm to rebrand its handsets as Facebook phones. Due to ineffective marketing, consumers don’t know about webOS, but they do know what Facebook is. The rebrand alone could vault Palm’s handset line into the spotlight. With the right hooks between Facebook and webOS, the devices would be dedicated social networking mobile phones, the number of which is steadily increasing due to the rise in social activities on smartphones. Palm could use the huge Facebook ecosystem as a carrot to dangle in front of mobile app developers, and Facebook would gain control over a mobile platform.
Perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question about Palm all along. It’s not which carrier does Palm need, it’s which company Palm should partner with to save itself?
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Image courtesy of Palm