Amazon has been tipped as the latest potential suitor for what remains of Palm, with insider sources at HP claiming the mega-retailer is close to finalizing a deal. HP is reportedly looking to rid itself of Palm as soon as it can, VentureBeat's tipster tells them, and while there are apparently "a handful of contenders" interested, it's Amazon that's closest to handing over the cash. However, it's unclear from the leaks whether Amazon would be buying Palm's hardware business, the webOS platform, or both.
VB's interpretation, however, is that both hardware and software are up for grabs, with HP looking to wash its hands of the whole failed endeavor. That's despite the company's talk shortly after axing the HP TouchPad - and canceling its upcoming smartphone release plans - that it was looking to license rather than sell webOS, and still had collaborative hopes for the software.
Those hopes, according to ex-Palm CEO, current HP "Product Innovation" chief and Amazon board member Jon Rubinstein, already tipped Amazon as a possible partner. "We'd like a partner that would allow us to expand the webOS ecosystem" he told This is my next back in July:
"There's a variety of different sets of a characteristics to qualify as a good partner. I would say Amazon would certainly make a great partner, because they have a lot of characteristics that would help them expand the webOS ecosystem. As to whether there’s been discussions or not… that’s obviously not something I’m going to comment about."
Whether Amazon would be interested in webOS in return, though, is less clear. The company launched its first tablet, the Kindle Fire, earlier this week, and much has been made of its heavily-reskinned Android 2.3 OS and how that could allow the retailer to in effect swap the underlying platform with little visible UI change to users. However, part of Amazon's value proposition with the Kindle Fire is the Amazon Appstore for Android, something it could not carry across to webOS.
Instead, it seems possible that Amazon could be more keen on the Palm hardware business. Palm is known to have had several phone and tablet designs - including a 7-inch slate and a TouchPad-replacing 10-inch slate - on the roadmap, which could give Amazon a head start on its own product plans. We've already seen the retailer reportedly use the BlackBerry PlayBook as a template for the Kindle Fire; a bigger tablet is apparently in development for launch in early 2012.
HP has declined to comment on "rumors and speculation" while Amazon is yet to respond.