Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Meet Gram, HP’s New Name for the Company Formerly Known as Palm

It has been about two years since IT giant Hewlett-Packard closed on its $1.2 billion acquisition of the smartphone company Palm. And it hasn’t exactly been a happy ride.

But now there’s a glimmer of hope. A new wholly owned subsidiary has been created within HP called Gram, and it’s essentially the remaining bits of the old Palm.

Sources confirmed to AllThingsD that a leaked memo that appeared on webOS Nation is authentic.

Gram will be based in the same HP Sunnyvale digs that were the last known home base of the webOS Global Business Unit, and will become steadily more visible in the fall after HP puts the finishing touches on the open source version of webOS, which is expected in September.

It’s the latest step in the long sad saga of Palm and something like that entity’s ninth identity change since its founding as a start-up in 1992.

HP shut down the division producing hardware running Palm’s webOS operating system after sales of its TouchPad tablet failed to gain traction.

Then after Meg Whitman took over as CEO came the decision last December to turn the webOS software into an open source project.

HP paid $1.2 billion for Palm in 2010 under then-CEO Mark Hurd. In its later years, the public face of Palm was largely investor Roger McNamee, who had pumped in a bit under a half-billion dollars, and its CEO, Jon Rubinstein, who left HP in January.

They had taken over a company that had struggled with a long identity crisis. Palm was started by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan in 1992 with the aim of creating handheld computing devices known as personal digital assistants. It was acquired by USRobotics in 1995.

Its first big product, the PalmPilot, debuted in 1996 and was a big hit. By 1997, USRobotics had been acquired by networking concern 3Com, making Palm a 3Com unit as well.

By 1998 Hawkins, Dubinsky and Colligan had split off and started another handheld outfit called Handspring, which in time created what is probably considered the first commercially successful smartphone, the Treo. Then, in 2000, 3Com spun off Palm, which by 2002 had split into two pieces, a hardware company called PalmOne and a software company called PalmSource.

In 2003, PalmOne acquired Handspring, bringing Hawkins, Dubinsky and Colligan back into the fold. Later, in 2005, PalmOne bought back the rights to the Palm name and trademark and simply became Palm again. And later that year, a Japanese software company called Access bought PalmSource. Then in 2007 came the investments by McNamee and the move to webOS.

In May, a group of former HP employees who had been working on Enyo, the HTML5-based development environment for the open source webOS, surfaced at Google. And earlier this month we learned that the new OS won’t support the old devices like the TouchPad tablet, and Pre or Veer phones.

Other than that there’s not much known about what Gram will be about. But in case you haven’t seen it, below is the leaked internal HP memo from Martin Risau, the HP vice president who has been running the remnants of the webOS business.

Hi everyone,

Thank you for all of your enthusiasm at yesterday’s new brand announcement: GRAM. We hope you will fall in love with the brand just as lots of us have already.

Please note that our Mission, Values and Plan of Action are the same. We are continuing to march forward on our timelines as usual—nothing new there.

We have much work to do, and, again, I solicit your help.

Yes, this is a new brand—it is just the beginning, and there is so much more to do. And yet unveiling the new brand is also a Call to Action:

· Try it on. We don’t expect you to love it overnight. We are no longer a consumer hardware brand, we are a different company with focus on software, User Experience, Cloud, engineering and partnering. This change in identity will take some getting used to and that’s normal.

· Stealth mode. We are an incubation company, and we are trusting you to keep this company name and product under the radar to give it time to take root and grow. You can wear the logo, help build the momentum of the new identity, talk to your families and friends about it. If someone from the outside asks, you can say, “GRAM is a new company. We are in stealth mode on our product offering.”

· Tap your network. Help us hire the best and the brightest, refer your friends and help us in our shared purpose as we continue our rise to the top. You can use the name to help us to recruit.

· Be the culture. Spread our Values: People Matter. Integrity and Trust. Deliberate Innovation. Act small, deliver big.

For those of you who could not attend yesterday’s unveiling – we really missed you. Please be on the lookout for the gift bags with our new cool branded items, which we be mailing out to you this and next week. All of you should get one, if not – let me know.



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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik