Palm and the Potential Silliness of CES

palm-logo-100539479-largeEd Colligan, a founder and former CEO of Palm, got it right. In a post to Facebook (on former Fox PR head Lynn Fox’s page), Colligan says: “I think it’s amazing these companies think they can buy a brand and stick some crappy products under it, and somehow they will get the benefit of the brand.”

The coverage of Chinese electronics maker TCL’s purchase of the Palm name and logo from Hewlett-Packard’s junk pile unsurprisingly got serious coverage from the same media that gives incredulous coverage to every announcement released at CES. Palm is no exception. “Palm lives! TCL to revive the classic brand” says PCWorld. “Chinese TV giant TCL brings Palm Inc. back to life,” declared Engadget. And more from many others.

Come on tech reporters, we deserve better than this. I won’t bother you with the whole tortured history of Palm, but HP bought the troubled company in 2010. HP had serious plans for Palm’s webOS software, but the CEO had no interest and killed the project. HP sold the entire webOS package and most if not all of Palm’s patents to LG, but kept the brand in a closet somewhere until TCL found it.

TCL intends to put the brand on a U.S. phone (it has been selling its phones under the Alcatel brand, another story) But the product will bear no resemblance to an actual Palm, no new models of which have been designed in three years. The TCL will be built on Android, not Palm’s webOS.

One of the nuisances of the tech industry’s edge is the willingness of some marginal player to buy the rights to a name. You can get a cheap TV branded Westinghouse. You can get an assortment of low cost consumer products branded Bell & Howell. And soon, the same for Palm.




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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

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