Qualcomm has just announced that it is buying the Palm and IPAQ portfolios of patents from HP which represent a combined 2400 patents, some of which have been granted, while others are still in the application process. Qualcomm did not elaborate on the motivation behind this purchase, but the language of the press release hints to an acquisition that aims at strengthening Qualcomm’s portfolio of patents, rather than aimed at producing consumer products directly related to those.
Palm and IPAQ patents may also not be the freshest discoveries on the market, and since LG has snapped the WebOS intellectual property, we wonder what was left for Qualcomm to acquire. The press release mentions “technologies that include fundamental mobile operating system techniques”, so it could be software building blocks that are key to even modern systems. That would make sense since a lot of the stuff that powers the guts of modern software has been invented a long time ago.
I don’t think that has implications for LG and its use of WebOS, although I’m not completely sure if there was some legacy code in it. Palm has always hinted that this was brand-new, although you never know until you look under the hood.
Although we tend to think of Palm and IPAQ in terms of PDA and Smartphones, let’s keep in mind that this relatively old technology can be partially re-purposed in wearable devices or smart home devices or home Internet appliances because they run on much lower-power hardware and don’t need a full-on OS like Android. The Qualcomm TOQ watch is a prime example, since the on-board computer performs only very simple sync and notification tasks.
What does this means for HP? Not much, actually – they may get some cash right away (the terms were not disclosed), but Qualcomm should license the patents back to them if HP needed to. For Qualcomm, their mobile patent portfolio is now bigger, which is always handy for defense purposes. It is more likely that these patents will in fact not be integrated in any critical way in future products. With that said, Palm fans will probably hope that Qualcomm will “pull an LG”, and come back with a formidably revamped Palm — wouldn’t that be cool?