Qualcomm [NASDAQ:QCOM] today announced that they would be acquiring the patents and other IP of HP’s Palm, IPAQ and Bitfone divisions, signaling an end of HP’s old handset ambitions. HP [NASDAQ:HPQ] has been struggling as of late to figure out what they’re going to exactly do with mobile devices and specifically smartphones and tablets. They were one of the first companies out with PDAs and they even had some of the first smartphone designs with their IPAQ devices. Ironically, HP also acquired Palm, which was one of their competitors in the early smartphone era who also suffered in the iPhone era and as a result, neither brand had much in terms of products or sales.
HP really tried to utilize the Palm WebOS in their first tablet, unsurprisingly running a Qualcomm APQ8064 SoC, but failed to sell them properly to consumers. And once the price of them had fallen to $99 in a fire sale of sorts, they were some of the most popular tablets on the market. While we don’t entirely know what HP’s mobile play will be in the future, rest assured it will not involve anything from their IPAQ, Palm or Bitfone brands. The portfolio is made up of approximately 1,400 granted patents and pending patent applications from the US and approximately 1,000 granted patents and pending patent applications from other countries and covers technologies and OS design techniques.
While the details of the sale have not been made public, it appears that this patent portfolio is a fairly significant one and will play well into Qualcomm’s already massive vault of patents. Qualcomm recently became one of the top 10 companies in the world in terms of granted patents and this will simply pile on top of their already existent mountain of patents. Obviously, these are much older patents, but they may hold keys to future mobile technologies that Qualcomm may be interested in implementing. I don’t really think that Qualcomm will do anything with WebOS, especially since its been open sourced, but I think that there are still a lot of fundamental patents in the IPAQ and Palm portfolios that could potentially be dangerous for any smartphone device or OS maker.
Since Qualcomm aggressively attacks anyone that infringes upon their patents without paying the appropriate fees, I would not be surprised if this portfolio leads to lawsuits in the future. While I don’t think the goal of the acquisition of these patents is necessarily to ‘troll’ anyone, I think they may be more protective than anything else. Not to mention, we all know HP needs money and they clearly aren’t serious about mobile, yet. I don’t know how long it’ll take HP to actually release a competitive mobile device, but the longer they wait, the further their competition gets ahead of them.