With iPhones and BlackBerrys everywhere, and Google Android devices on the rise, it’s easy to forget that Palm was the company that made it all happen.
The PalmPilot is credited with popularizing the personal digital assistant, or PDA. And it was the device that established the basic form factor that later smartphones would use. After earlier attempts by Apple and others, Palm proved there was a market for a third category of portable computing device, something more than a cell phone but less than a laptop.
The company has been bought and sold more times than most people can keep up with. But the Palm name endured throughout, and it may even live on under Hewlett-Packard Co., which agreed to buy the handheld and OS maker on Wednesday for $1.2 billion. Following is a brief timeline of the history of Palm.
1992 — Jeff Hawkins founds Palm Computing and enlists Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan to build the company.
1995 — U.S. Robotics, which makes computer modems, acquires Palm for $44 million.
1996 — U.S. Robotics introduces the PalmPilot 1000, priced at $299, with 128k of memory and a monochrome, touch-screen display.
1997 — 3Com acquires U.S. Robotics. Later that year, 3Com holds the first PalmPilot Developer Conference in San Francisco’s Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens.
1998 — 3Com has to stop using the name “Pilot” because of a legal dispute with the Pilot Pen Corp. It releases the Palm III organizer, which is based on the Palm 3.0 OS and retails for $399.
1998 — Hawkins, Dubinsky and Colligan leave Palm to found Handspring, which will make its own PDAs using Palm’s software.
1998 – Palm Computing sues Microsoft, saying its Palm PC brand is too easily confused with Palm’s own products. Microsoft agrees to use Palm-size PC instead, and later changes the name to Pocket PC.
1999 — 3Com announces plans to spin off Palm Computing. It’s the company’s fastest growing business unit at the time, accounting for 10 percent of revenue. It says more than five million PalmPilots have been sold to date. The same year, 3Com starts selling the first Palm device with a wireless antenna, the Palm VII, for $599.
2000 — Palm goes public, separating from 3Com.
2002 — Palm forms an OS subsidiary named PalmSource, with the remaining company called Palm Solutions Group. That same year, Sony invests $20 million in PalmSource, marking the first outside investment
2002 — Research in Motion introduces its first BlackBerry smartphone.
2003 — Palm announces plans to acquire Handspring, forming a hardware company called PalmOne, and spins off PalmSource, the OS company
2005 –Todd Bradley steps down as CEO of PalmOne and Ed Colligan takes over. PalmOne acquires the Palm brand name, paying PalmSource $30 million for its 55 percent share of the Palm Trademark Holding Company. Palm announces plans to offer a Treo smartphone running Windows Mobile software, rather than its own Palm OS.
2007 — Just as it is due to release the Foleo subnotebook, Palm kills the product to focus on its smartphone OS instead.
2007 – Apple launches its first iPhone
2009 — Colligan, the last remaining founder of Palm, leaves the company. Jon Rubinstein, known for his role designing the iPod for Apple, becomes CEO. Palm later rolls out the Palm Pre, the first phone to run its new WebOS.
March 2010 — Palm reports a loss for its most recent quarter of $22 million, and says its “recent underperformance has been very disappointing.” Rumors surface that the company is up for sale.
April 28, 2010 — HP announces plans to buy Palm for $1.2 billion