Novatel Wireless today announced plans to divest its mobile broadband business. The company has agreed to sell its MiFi branded hotspots and USB modem product lines to Hong Kong-based TCL Industries Holdings for $50 million in cash. Novatel was an early player in mobile internet products and provided modems for the Palm Pilot and other fledgling smartphones. The company later branched out into USB- and WiFi-based mobile hotspots. Novatel said it wants to focus on generating recurring revenue IoT solutions, rather than hardware sales. Some of its IoT business lines include Ctrack telematics, fleet management, asset tracking and monitoring, and Feeney Wireless business connectivity solutions. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, but the firms expect to complete the transaction during the first quarter of 2017.
TCL Communications, the parent company of Alcatel OneTouch, today confirmed to Phone Scoop that it has acquired the Palm brand and plans to revive the failed tech company. "We are interested in the brand because we believe the brand has value," said TCL CEO George Guo. "It was once a very strong brand and there are many fans of this brand around the world, including people at TCL." TCL intends to resurrect Palm with new hardware, software, and services — but not on its own. It will ask the community to contribute ideas for potential new devices, operating systems, and apps. It will commit engineers and its manufacturing resources to the project, but hopes much of the R&D will come from the tech community at large. TCL said it hasn't worked out the details of how this community-driven revival will function, but it is confident it can restore luster to the brand. "Palm was an original pioneer and we want to keep it that way. We want to attract the people who have ideas on how to revive the brand in a meaningful way." Guo shot down the idea of using webOS, which is owned by LG, and ran on the Palm Pre, Pixi, and other phones. "We are open to all ideas, but probably not webOS," said Guo. "Palm built by Palm fans is the intent." TCL expects to eventually offer both Alcatel- and Palm-branded products in the US. TCL said it couldn't comment on the terms of the acquisition. It will provide more details as they are developed.
HP recently indicated that it will cease all backend support for WebOS devices on January 15. After that time, WebOS device owners will no longer be able to download or update apps, reset or restore their devices, setup new devices, or retrieve lost passwords. According to HP, the web services shut down will not disable existing hardware. HP recommends that WebOS device owners download any apps they may want to keep prior to November 1, 2014. "Shutting down webOS cloud services is part of an orderly end of life program," explained HP. "HP announced the end of WebOS devices over 3 years ago, but the services were kept running to allow customers to continue to have a richer user experience. The user count has dwindled to the point where it is no longer viable to keep the services running." HP acquired WebOS when it bought Palm in 2010. HP killed its Palm hardware business in 2011 and has since open-sourced WebOS. LG eventually purchased WebOS from HP, which it uses in select consumer electronics.
Qualcomm today announced that it has purchased a number of patents from HP. The purchase includes about 1,400 patents and patents pending in the U.S., and another 1,000 patents and patents pending outside the U.S. According to Qualcomm, the patents pertain to mobile operating technologies and cover many of the patents HP acquired when it bought Palm. Qualcomm says the acquisition will help it offer "even more value" to its licensees. Neither Qualcomm nor HP put a dollar value on the patents.
HP today announced that it is re-entering the smartphone market and debuted two new devices that are headed to India. The HP Slate6 VoiceTab and HP Slate7 VoiceTab are large-screened phones that are meant to consolidate the smartphone and tablet experience into a single device. The Slate6 has a 6-inch 720p HD LCD screen and the Slate7 has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 LCD screen. Both offer quad-core processors, voice-calling capabilities, and user-facing stereo speakers. They each include a 2-megapixel user-facing camera and 5-megapixel main camera with flash and 720p HD video capture. The Slates include 16GB of built-in storage and support microSD cards up to 32GB for additional storage. The Slates are equipped with dual SIM card slots, and support 3G networks. They run Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Pricing and availability were not immediately disclosed. HP has been in and out of the smartphone market over the years. A decade ago it sold Compaq-branded Windows Mobile smartphones. It eventually abandoned those and purchased Palm and webOS. It failed to develop new Palm and webOS devices, however, and eventually shuttered Palm and sold webOS to LG. HP hasn't said if it will offer smartphones to U.S. buyers.
HP is looking to sell its mobile technology patents in order to improve its financial footing, reports Bloomberg. Most of the patents pertain to webOS, which HP acquired when it bought Palm in 2010. HP killed off Palm's devices in 2011 and eventually open-sourced webOS before selling the operating system to LG. HP has approached several companies that it thinks might be interested in the patents, but those companies were not named by Bloomberg's sources. HP paid $1.2 billion for Palm, but there are no estimates about the value of the remaining patents. HP uses Microsoft's Windows platform and Google's Android platform for its PCs and tablets, respectively.
Qualcomm announced that it has elected Jon Rubinstein to its board of directors. Prior to joining Qualcomm's board, Rubinstein served as CEO of Palm and helped develop webOS and products such as the Palm Pre, Pixi, and Veer. Before leading Palm, Rubinstein worked for Apple on its iPod products. He has extensive experience in the mobile device and wireless industries. "His experience in creating revolutionary consumer electronics and mobile products will provide added insight to Qualcomm's board as we continue to expand the scope and impact of wireless products and technology, improving and enhancing people's lives around the world," said Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs. Qualcomm makes processors, baseband radios, modems, and other components for smartphones, tablets, and wireless devices.
HP CEO Meg Whitman said that the company will return to the smartphone business, at some point. "We have to ultimately offer a smartphone because in many countries of the world that would be your first computing device," she said to FOX Business. "We are a computing company, we have to take advantage of that form factor." HP purchased Palm for its webOS smartphone platform in 2010, but effectively shuttered the Palm unit in August 2011. HP recently released a beta of open webOS operating system to the developer community. Whitman didn't provide a timeframe for when it might jump back into the smartphone business, not did she indicate what platform HP might use.
Jon Rubinstein, former CEO of Palm, has left HP, reports AllThingsD. Rubinstein spearheaded Palm's development of webOS and associated smartphones in its attempt to regain its lost status as a premiere smartphone purveyor. Rubinstein continued to lead the Palm unit within HP once the acquisition took place, but was eventually moved to other roles after HP decided to kill off its smartphone and tablet businesses. Rubinstein has completed a commitment to remain with the company for a specific amount of time. He has no immediate plans.
Digital Technology Licensing today said that Sprint Nextel, Kyocera, Sanyo, and Palm have all settled a patent infringement lawsuit over a cell phone patent owned by Digital Technology. The patent in question refers to how cell phones talk to base stations, as well as some Bluetooth functionality. All four companies have agreed to license the technology from Digital Technology for undisclosed sums. Digital Technology Licensing originally filed the lawsuit in 2007.
HP today announced the fate of its beleaguered webOS smartphone platform: it will be contributed to the open source community, along with the Enyo application framework. HP said it will remain an active participant in the development and of the operating system, saying that there is plenty of opportunity to improve webOS. HP said that it will make the underlying code of webOS available under an open source license to whomever wants to use it. Henceforth, developers, hardware manufacturers and others can continue to work on webOS and update it as necessary. "webOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable," said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer in a prepared statement. "By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices." HP acquired webOS when it bought Palm in 2010. It released several webOS devices, most recently the TouchPad tablet, before deciding in August to cease all further development of smartphones and tablets.
HP is considering whether or not it should sell webOS to an unknown suitor for hundreds of millions of dollars, reports Reuters, citing four sources familiar with the matter. HP acquired webOS when it closed its acquisition of Palm in July 2010. It paid $1.2 billion for Palm. HP has been unable to capitalize on the mobile operating system developed by Palm, and in August of this year decided to shutter its webOS-based smartphone and tablet businesses. Reuters reports that several companies are interested in webOS, including Oracle, though probably for the patents that are part of the operating system and not for the platform itself. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is advising HP on the deal. HP and Bank of America declined to comment on Reuters' story.
HP/Palm recently announced a brand new mapping application for its webOS smartphones. HP/Palm has replaced the Google Maps engine behind the map app with Microsoft's Bing Maps (same version as on the TouchPad tablet). HP/Palm says the revised application should show significant performance improvements on the Pre, Pixi, Pre2, and Veer. Other new features of the app include map and satellite views; driving, walking, and transit directions; and access to recent and bookmarked locations. The application is a free download from the App Catalog.
According to sources cited by Bloomberg, HP's board of directors is considering plans to rid itself of Chief Executive Officer Leo Apotheker, who's helmed the company for less than a year, and replace him with former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. HP has had a tumultuous year under Apotheker's leadership, and recently killed off its smartphone and tablet businesses. HP also recently announced plans to sell off its PC/hardware business and focus more on software and services, similar to IBM. HP's strategic changes have been met with investor ire. It is unclear if any of HP's recent strategic decisions might be reversed under new leadership. HP this week began the process of laying off more than 500 former Palm employees as it winds down the webOS business unit.
HP confirmed today that it has started workforce reductions in what's left of its Palm smartphone business. Layoffs commenced today and more than 500 are expected to lose their jobs. "As communicated on August 18, HP will discontinue the development of webOS devices within the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011, which ends October 31, 2011, said HP to AllThingsD. "As part of this decision, the webOS GBU is undergoing a reduction in workforce. Today's actions are part of this initiative. During this time, we stand by our commitment to our webOS customers and will work to ensure that support and service for customers are not adversely affected. HP is exploring ways to leverage webOS software." HP has said that it is considering licensing deals and possibly even an outright sale of webOS, though no solid decisions had been made.
HTC has filed another lawsuit against Apple, this time regarding nine patents it acquired from Google as recently as last week, reports Bloomberg. The patents originally belonged to Palm, Motorola, and Openwave, and came into Google's ownership in the last 12 months. The patents were transferred from Google to HTC on September 1. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Delaware, says Apple is in violation of the patents. HTC also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The details of the patents in question weren't immediately provided.
HP plans to exit the smartphone and tablet businesses and will cease creating new devices based on webOS, which it acquired last year when it bought Palm. HP said in a statment, "HP plans to announce that it will discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically the TouchPad and webOS phones. HP will continue to explore options to optimize the value of webOS software going forward." HP is also exploring the sale of its Personal Systems Group, which is responsible for its consumer and business computing devices. Palm debuted the first webOS smartphone, the Pre, in January 2009. It reached the market in June of that year. It was followed by several more webOS-based phones, including the Pixi, Pre Plus, and Pre 2. HP announced the Pre 3 earlier this year, but today's news suggests that it will never be sold. webOS was masterminded by Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, brought in from Apple to revive Palm's flagging smartphone business. webOS was a complete break from Palm's previous mobile platforms.
HP today announced a staffing change at the internal unit responsible for webOS. The former Palm entity is now being referred to as the webOS Global Business Unit. In addition to the name change, former Palm and HP webOS head Jon Rubinstein has been reassigned to a senior vice president role of product innovation within the Personal Systems Group at HP. At the same time, HP appointed Stephen DeWitt as senior vice president and general manager of its webOS global business unit. Rubinstein was brought in to help revive Palm and was behind the development of webOS and Palm/HP devices such as the Pre, Pixi, and Veer.
Speaking today at the AllThingsD conference, HP CEO Leo Apetheker said that the company is open to licensing webOS, which it acquired when it purchased Palm in July 2010. Apotheker said, "WebOS will also be adopted by many partners who provide services to small and medium businesses. Traditionally HP has a strong channel into medium companies. … I happen to believe that WebOS is a uniquely outstanding operating system. It's not correct to believe that it should only be on HP devices. There are all kinds of other people who want to make whatever kind of hardware they make and would like to connect them to the Internet. We'll make it available to enterprises and to SMBs. It will run on lots of HP devices." Apotheker also noted that the company believes webOS can become the number three smartphone platform, behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS. The company plans to install webOS on its PCs, laptops, and other devices. Apotheker hinted that HP is also prepared to unleash new smartphones with webOS on board. Its most recent phone, the Veer 4G, is available from AT&T.
The FCC today approved a new smartphone from HP that perfectly matches the specs of the previously-announced Pre 3. FCC documents show that the CDMA version of the phone will also include quad-band GSM and WCDMA 900 / 2100 radios for roaming in Europe. This global roaming feature was not previously announced by HP / Palm.
AT&T today announced that it will offer the HP Veer 4G starting on May 15. The Veer is the smallest webOS smartphone from HP (Palm) to date, touted as being the size of a credit card and no thicker than a deck of cards. The Veer 4G sports "4G" speeds of up to 14.4 Mbps down and 5.76 Mbps up. The phone will be an AT&T exclusive in the US, and will be available in both black and white. The price will be $99 with two-year contract.