A report by VentureBeat overnight quotes an anonymous source saying that Amazon.com is “in serious negotiations” to buy Palm from HP, acquiring assets including the well-regarded webOS software for smartphones and tablets. It’s getting a lot of attention in the tech media this morning.

The logic? “By purchasing the remnants of Palm, Amazon would have free rein to redesign webOS to its own liking, and it would be able to further differentiate its Kindle devices from the slew of Android tablets in the market.”

We’ve asked Amazon if it wants to comment on the report, but in the meantime, something seems a little odd here.

Amazon has clearly been laying the groundwork for its new Android-based Kindle Fire for a long time, dating back (publicly, at least) to the launch of its own Android app store earlier this year. This was a shrewd move, allowing Amazon to launch its new tablet with an established platform for apps, without relying on Google’s Android Market.

Bringing webOS into the fold would be a huge change in course. Not that it couldn’t happen, but without further justification the report is a bit of a head-scratcher.

SlashGear comes to the same conclusion and speculates that Amazon might actually be interested in the Palm hardware.

But even that seems like a stretch, as evidenced by the fact that Amazon was essentially able to repurpose an existing tablet design for the first-generation Kindle Fire. Sure, a larger Kindle Fire modeled after the HP TouchPad might be interesting, but is it really so necessary that Amazon would go to the trouble of wading into the current mess at HP to acquire Palm?

Of course, unexpected things happen all the time in the tech world, and as we know, Jeff Bezos is more than willing to be misunderstood by the likes of us. But this is one of those stories that we’ll have a hard time believing until there’s an announcement. And we won’t be holding our breath.

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  • Guest

    Just because some rubbish concoction is “getting a lot of attention in the tech media” doesn’t mean you have to pollute Geekwire with it too, Todd. As we’ve all seen with lolcats, memes, and retweets, just because something is popular doesn’t automatically make it important.

  • Anonymous

    Three words … cheap patent portfolio.

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Maybe so, but the VentureBeat story describes it as more of a product move by Amazon, which is where I’m struggling with the logic.

    • http://eyejot.com/users/davidg davidgeller

      Exactly right. Palm has one of the largest patent portfolios related to smartphones, touch and stylus control. They were one of the very early innovators in the space. The patents are gold, second, perhaps, only to Apple’s arsenal.

      • Anonymous

        That may or may not be true. Patents don’t last that long, and it has been a long time since Palm invented anything. And when they did, it was all baby tech. Further, if there were some badass patent in their collection, surely somebody would have done something with it already?

        Also, Apple does not have an “arsenal.” They have only ever used their patents defensively. You have to either sue Apple or counterfeit their products just to even get their attention.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t we just hear that HP laid off 500 Palm employees? What would they be buying from HP in that case? $99 TouchPads?

  • Corrupted Mind

    I don’t believe that Amazon buying Palm WebOS is completely farfetched for these five reasons.
    1. Amazon are not in the ‘Android game’ they’re in the Amazon game and any platform that allows them to have a safe harbour for extolling their Amazon experience is an option worth pursuing.
    2. Android isn’t safe.  Microsoft are getting a well publicised $500m a year in licensing and you would expect that by the time “patents wars” is over Oracle and Apple will be taking a cut too.
    3. WebOS is an online OS far more than iOS and Android (which favour native apps).  If you were seeking a platform to launch your cloud services – where would be better.
    4. Apart from the fact that WebOS in and of itself is a good mobile platform you get a whole load of modern IP protection by buying Palm WebOS.
    5. $700m is pocket change to Amazon.  They could make the bet and justify it purely on IP grounds if they decided not to revive the OS.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_43ULSAH67ZW5WOK3J2MEHFQKAY Paul

      The only idea that makes much sense is that Amazon wants Palm for their patent portfolio.  Has anybody here actually tried to develop for webOS?  I have, and it is a mess.  From a developer perspective the tech sounds great, but it is far from that.  I have written more: http://devblast.com/webos-i-hardly-knew-you  It seems Amazon has already started down the Android path, with their App store.  If they decide to change OS now (over to webOS), it means they have to start over.  That would not make sense.    

    • http://www.MyFaveRecipes.com christiananderson

      Have to agree with Corrupted Mind. Look at Amazon’s play here. They understand that what it takes to win in the mobile space is KIATCS (keep it about the content, stupid). Okay, not so elegant as KISS, but you get the point. What sells tablets is’t dual core processors or the latest version of Android. It’s about easy access to the content I want. That simple understanding — which seems lost on most tablet makers — and the super low price point looks like a winning combination (or at least insta-player status for Amazon).

      Buying Palm gets Amazon hardware, software, IP protection and means Amazon no longer reliant on Android. Android let’s Amazon enter the market more quickly, but looking at How Amazon works, you have to assume they want to control everything about the Fire. Soup to nuts. Buying Palm, gets them a lot closer, a lot faster.

  • http://twitter.com/pceasy PC Easy

    Consider the source. Venturebeat hasn’t really had a good week. However, maybe they want it so nobody else will have it.

  • Anonymous

    Palm, HP & WebOS = FAIL!!

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