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Palm on Amazon's own wish list, report says

A source tells VentureBeat that the retail giant is in "serious negotiations" to pick up what's left of Palm from HP.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read
HP's Jon Rubinstein and the TouchPad tablet.
HP's Jon Rubinstein and the TouchPad tablet. James Martin/CNET

Amazon may have Palm on its shopping list.

The retail giant is said to be in "serious negotiations" to acquire what's left of Palm from current parent Hewlett-Packard, according to VentureBeat.

Citing a "well-placed source," VentureBeat says that HP is eager to get rid of Palm, and among the current suitors, Amazon is the closest to cutting a deal. The tech news site also notes a connection between the companies as former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, who currently has a role at HP working with WebOS, joined Amazon's board of directors last year.

VentureBeat also pointed to a July interview with Rubinstein at This is My Next in which he discussed Amazon as a potential partner.

"I would say Amazon would certainly make a great partner, because they have a lot of characteristics that would help them expand the WebOS ecosystem," Rubinstein said. "As to whether there's been discussions or not...that's obviously not something I'm going to comment about."

HP's WebOS chief Stephen DeWitt also played up his praise of the retail giant in the interview.

"Amazon has tethered relationships with their customers," DeWitt said. "There's no company on the planet that has more intimacy with their end customers, or knowledge of their end customers. We respect that a lot, and we've learned from that. And our partnerships in other areas have taught us a great deal, so to Jon's point...as a metaphor, that's the kind of sophisticated partner that makes sense."

An HP rep told VentureBeat that the company doesn't comment on rumors and speculation, while Amazon has not yet responded. CNET has also reached out to both companies for comment.

HP picked up Palm in April 2010 for a hefty $1.2 billion as an attempt to gain more traction into the mobile marketplace. But the company struggled as it tried to turn Palm's WebOS into a major contender against the likes of Apple's iOS and Android. After its TouchPad failed to make a dent among consumers, HP slashed the price on the device to clear out excess inventory, a move that finally lit a fire under buyers looking for a cheap tablet.

Early this month, HP announced that it was splitting up its WebOS business by shuttling the software operations to a different part of the company and that it would stop development of WebOS hardware during the fourth quarter. A couple of weeks later, HP confirmed that it was laying off 525 employees as part of its move to shut down the WebOS hardware business.

WebOS as an operating system can still have a lot of life left if handled the right way by Amazon, says VentureBeat. By outfitting future Kindle tablets with a revamped, customized version of WebOS, Amazon can further distinguish its own devices from the huge pack of Android tablets currently flooding the market. With its strong multi-tasking abilities, WebOS could also do a better job than Android at letting users juggle games, movies, and other content.