Former Palm VP cautiously welcomes rebirth of the original smartphone brand

8 Jan 20154 Shares

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The decision by a Chinese consumer electronics giant to recreate Palm has been cautiously welcomed by an Irishman who was an executive vice-president at Palm and who is now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

John Hartnett of SVG Partners and president of the Irish Technology Leadership Group was a senior executive at Palm in its heyday as the inventor of the smartphone before the arrival of the iPhone from Apple, as well as the Android OS from Google.

He is also CEO of SVG Partners, which has made a number of multi-million dollar investments in the US and which is currently creating a €10m start-up accelerator with Eircom.

At its high point, Palm lay the foundations for the smartphone revolution, emerging at first as a maker of personal digital assistants, such as the Grafitti and Handspring, and then creating high-end business-focused mobile phones, such as the Treo, the Pre and the Pixi.

HP’s fog of war

Tech giant HP acquired Palm in 2010 for US$1.2bn but failed to maintain the momentum that had made Palm a household name.

It was precisely at this time that Google’s Android was emerging as a competing OS against Apple’s iOS and it is fair to assume Palm’s destiny got lost in the strategic “fog of war” that enveloped HP at a time of CEO musical chairs.

To add insult to injury, HP killed off the well-regarded Palm brand, replacing it with webOS. By 2013, HP sold the webOS team and patents to LG Electronics.

It emerged this week that Chinese consumer electronics giant TCL had acquired the Palm brand from HP. Palm.com now redirects to a MyNewPalm.com page, complete with ‘coming soon’ and the original orange Palm logo.

Palm brand reborn

John Hartnett, former Palm EVP

TCL said it plans to recreate Palm with a new team based in Silicon Valley. It also aims to incorporate crowdfunding into its product development.

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Hartnett gave the news a cautious welcome, sensing merit at least in the choice of locating in Silicon Valley.

“Buying a logo doesn’t buy a vision, team and a great culture of innovation,” Hartnett said.

“Having been EVP of Palm for nine years where we built a great team, culture and invented the smartphone was an incredible experience – it will be a real challenge for the Chinese manufacturer to recreate that vision and culture as it is very much about the great people and leadership.

“However, their ambition to set up in Silicon Valley is the right place to start.”

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com