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HP: Palm buy not about smartphones

CEO Mark Hurd says his company's acquisition of Palm is mainly about the handset maker's vast intellectual property portfolio.

HP Palm Pre
HP is more interested in Palm's IP portfolio than hardware like the Pre Plus. Sarah Tew/CNET

When Hewlett-Packard ponied up $1.2 billion for struggling smartphone maker Palm, the move was widely seen as a quick way for the PC and enterprise services company to get into the burgeoning mobile device market.

Not so, HP CEO Mark Hurd said Wednesday. At the Bank of America Merrill Lynch technology conference, Hurd said his company has broader plans.

He told the audience that HP did not "spend billions of dollars trying to go into the smartphone business; that doesn't in any way make any sense," according to a ZDNet report.

We didn't buy Palm to be in the smartphone business. And I tell people that, but it doesn't seem to resonate well. We bought it for the IP. The WebOS is one of the two ground-up pieces of software that is built as a Web operating environment...We have tens of millions of HP small form factor Web-connected devices...Now imagine that being a Web-connected environment where now you can get a common look and feel and a common set of services laid against that environment. That is a very value proposition.

From the moment HP said it was acquiring Palm, the company has been quick to point out Palm's appealing IP portfolio, and has talked mostly about its plans for WebOS, which so far include a tablet and Web-connected printers. Not until Wednesday had anyone at HP so vehemently downplayed the smartphone part of the equation, which certainly begs the question of what HP plans to do with Palm's hardware business.