HP's buyout of Palm was the result of a heated battle between several companies, an SEC filing revealed today. Five companies reached the point of bidding for Palm between February 17 and April 1, and at least two of these were dropped two weeks later as more competitive bids were already on the table. Between then and the 24th, HP and its main challenger were engaged in a bidding war that ended when the losing bidder added negative terms to its bid and at one point offered only to buy patents and a webOS license.
Palm's submission doesn't identify any of the other involved companies besides HP; the others are named only Companies A,B, C and D. Company C, the competitor to HP in the very latest stages, didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement and may be revealed in the near future. Some of the prime candidates floated in rumors have included HTC, Lenovo, ZTE and even Dell. Despite Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein's connections to Apple and his recruiting of many former Apple engineers, the iPhone maker isn't known to have been a serious candidate.
Despite rumors and even a statement by Rubinstein on April 22nd, however, the company had ruled out licensing webOS to others by early March. Such agreements would have watered down the strength of Palm's well-known patent portfolio, and wouldn't address the problems of scaling Palm's own phone sales or improving its design efforts, according to the filing.
The level of competition suggests that HP had a more vested interest in buying Palm than initially thought and supports notions that Palm had relatively little difficulty getting interest from the industry as a whole, although it had to originally solicit 16 companies. HP has already sent strong indications that it wants to make webOS tablets and may have its first model, the Hurricane, due as soon as the summer.