TCL recently bought the trademark to the old Palm name from HP, which had been hanging onto it for no apparent reason—sentimental value?—after selling Palm’s software assets to LG in 2013.
The Chinese electronics maker declared on Tuesday that Palm was “synonymous with innovation” and “now is the time to bring back this Pioneer spirit.” Its Alcatel One Touch smartphone unit has already started using the Pixi name, a former Palm sub-brand, on some of its models.
So what does former Palm CEO Ed Colligan, who left the company in 2009, a year before HP bought it, think of all this?
He thinks it’s “hilarious,” according to a comment he left on a Facebook post by Lynn Fox, a tech-communications strategist who previously ran PR at Palm.
“I hope they paid HP $1.2 billion for it! ;)” he added—a reference to the price HP paid for Palm.
“I think it’s amazing these companies think they can buy a brand and stick some crappy products under it, and somehow they will get the benefit of the brand. The reason the brand was strong is we built compelling products that delighted our customers over 15 years. The word Palm is still a great name for mobile products, but they’ll have to actually build great products and be a great company to instill brand value in it again. Good luck to them.”
That captures the challenge a new Palm faces under Alcatel. Consumers are buying iPhone and Android phones, and we’ve gone through a couple of generations of devices since Palm phones have even been on sale in the market.
Palm still has lots of fans. Eric Migicovsky, the CEO of smartwatch maker Pebble, often talks about how Palm’s handheld personal digital assistants inspired him. Palm had an amazing collection of talent, like designer Matias Duarte, who is now Google’s vice president of design. And it had a large community of developers, which TCL mentioned in its announcement of the deal as something it hoped to revive.
But those people have moved on. Palm’s engineers, designers, and marketers have new jobs. Palm may have popularized the notion of apps for mobile devices, but its developers long ago shifted their bets to Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. Nostalgia is not a strategy in the tech world.
TCL and its Alcatel subsidiary are known for budget smartphones, not the kind of groundbreaking products Palm introduced. Can Palm’s new owner prove Palm’s old boss wrong?
Here’s the original post where Colligan made his comments:
Photo via Ed Colligan’s LinkedIn page