Acquisitions - Palm and HP, Siri and Apple

Two interesting acquisitions were announced today, one exciting, one disappointing.

First, the exciting one.  Apple acquired Siri.  I've used the Siri app for the iPhone, and was very impressed.  It attempts tries to be your digital secretary, and actually does it quite well.  It abstracts you away from how it finds out information, and just presents what you want to know.  It works great for the simple cases so far, and I think over time will become very good at much more.  For Apple, who I believe is focusing on making computers into appliances, this is a great fit.  As I discussed in my post about the iPad, I believe the next evolution of the computing space is creating computing appliances, not computers.  Thinking of the iPad as a computer with a touch screen instead of a computer with a keyboard is wrong, just as thinking of a TiVo as a computer with a video capture card is wrong.  Yes, both analogies are technically correct, but they both miss the point.  Both are computing appliances, not computers, and the rules and expectations for them should be different.  I'm very excited to see what Apple will do with Siri.

And now for the disappointing one.  HP acquires Palm.  Palm was once a great company.  They nearly single handily created the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) market, with the Palm Pilot.  The Palm Pilot dominated the market for years, until the advent of smart phones.  Then they created the smartphone market with their Treo line (technically they bought Handspring, which was formed by the same folks), and extended their domination.  I was an early adopter back in 1998 and used Palm Pilots and Treos up until last year when I switched to an iPhone 3GS.

If was very excited about Palm's new OS, but in the end it was too little, too late.  If they had launched the WebOS/Pre a year before the iPhone came out, they may still be dominating the landscape.  And they certainly should have been able to do that.  The Palm OS was great in the 90's, worked OK in the early '00's, but was really showing its age by 2005.  They waited far to long to move to the next generation.

I don't see how being acquired by HP will change their position.  iPhone and Android are locked arm-in-arm for the smartphone market.  iPhone owns the proprietary walled garden space, and Android is the open, extensible choice.  Microsoft and RIM are still hanging around, mostly in the corporate market.  There just isn't room for Palm.

HP is not an innovative company today, and is more known for their existing relationships and sales channels than engineering.  While I don't believe any company could have really saved Palm, an acquisition by HTC or another up and comer in the space would have been interesting.