In 2009, one of the most talked about devices at CES in Las Vegas was the Palm Pre and Palm’s new WebOS operating system. In the last six years, WebOS has had three owners (Palm itself, then HP, then LG) and numerous iterations. It lives on in LG’s smart TVs but it bears almost no resemblance to what Palm announced that January in 2009.
Palm itself went on to be acquired by HP in the spring of 2010 and the old Palm employees are now part of a new subsidiary called Gram. Indeed, it didn’t look like the Palm brand was in line for any kind of resurrection. However, nearly five years after HP acquired Palm for more than a billion dollars, the Palm name is back in the news.
WebOS Nation this week reports that HP actually sold the rights to the Palm name and trademark to none other than Alcatel OneTouch back in October. At least, that’s what it looks like. One of the site’s forum members was digging around and found that HP transferred the ownership of the Palm name, trademarks and logos to Wide Progress Global Limited. WPG is apparently a shelf company (a corporation created and saved for use on a secretive rainy day). The person processing the transfer on WPG’s side is Nicolas Zibell, who also happens to be head of Alcatel OneTouch’s Americas and Pacific division.
There’s also the appearance of mynewpalm.com, which users are directed to when they try to visit the old palm.com URL. Here, there’s a minimalist looping video that shows the Palm logo and the words, “Coming soon,” and “Smart Move.” “Smart Move.” is Alcatel’s tagline for its OneTouch line.
If you’re not the kind to go in for conspiracy theories, here’s your grain of salt: Nicolas Zibell is also senior VP and general manager of Americas at TCL, the Chinese electronics manufacturer that makes Alcatel’s phones. It’s possible TCL has plans to develop Palm as a separate product line.
Alcatel will be at CES so we’ll no doubt hear all about it soon enough.