The Battle for Mobile Components

By Deane Barker on June 25, 2012

Pre to postmortem: the inside story of the death of Palm and webOS: This is a really interesting look into the demise of Palm and webOS, a product about which I was very passionate.

I had a first-gen Palm Pre and loved it.  I still maintain that it had the best multi-tasking model before or since.  No device I have ever seen did it better than the card metaphor of the Pre.

But there’s one particular part of the article I really found fascinating – apparently you can’t just get any hardware components you want for your device.  There’s a limited supply on the market, and if China runs out, you have to go without or build your own factory.

We tend to think things like keyboards and displays exist in inexhaustible supplies, but apparently not.  When Palm wanted to make the Pre 3 an “iPhone Killer,” they found out that the iPhone was going to screw them over by taking all the components they wanted.

“We told HP we needed better displays [for the Pre 3]. They’d come back and say, ‘Apple bought them all. Our suppliers tell us we need to build them a factory if we want the displays’ and they weren’t willing to put the billion dollars upfront to do that,” one source said. “The same thing happened with cameras. We’d pick a part, turns out Apple picked the same part. We were screwed left and right.” Without HP’s full financial support to buy its way into relevance, Palm was essentially left to pick from the corporate parts bin — a problem that would strike particularly hard later on with the TouchPad.

I had no idea.



  1. I love Apple products, but stories like this are why we need aggressive anti-trust enforcement. At a certain point you can use market share and profitability to compete on things besides meeting customer demands.

  2. What does anti-trust enforcement got to do with anything?

    Apple is genius about controlling the supply chain, and they have every right to be. They pick a design and a material for a product and they aggressively go after it. If the company say’s they need Apple to invest in new tooling technology, Apple does, need a new factory or two Apple does it. In return Apple gets exclusive rights for xx amount of years, as well as a bulk and partner pricing into the next few years. Samsung loves them for this reason, yet there are very few companies that believe in what they make that are willing to go the mile and honestly they deserve the scraps.

    Like liquid metal… Apple has a need for the technology but the creators don’t expect Apple to have worked the engineering and creation of mass production tools for the technology until 2015. Apple just re signed exclusive agreement for tech until 2014. Apple obviously believes they will be ready with the technology by 2013, 2014, and 2015. They don’t care if other companies gets the rights to the material in 2014 because by that point they will have already spent 4 years on R&D and engineering technology that the other guys are going to have to figure out on there own and be behind.

    I also loved webOS and still believe it was the best Mobile OS to date, but HP seriously dropped the ball with a lack of faith and willing to invest.

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