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Jobs: Apple wanted to buy Palm

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Did Apple attempt to buy Palm Computing from 3Com? Apparently, according to interim CEO Steve Jobs, quoted in an interview with Fortune. It may even be looking for other possible acquisitions. While discussing the possibility of Apple moving into businesses beyond personal computing, Jobs said: "If Apple can find things that are complementary to its core, that's great. I thought buying the PalmPilot from 3Com would have been complementary, but it didn't come to pass [our italics]. I won't go into what other complementary things there might be, but when you look back in a year, it will all make sense." The obvious interpretation is that Jobs is talking about the gadget itself, but why discuss it (a) in a section on finding complementary products to Apple's own and (b) why then claim it "didn't come to pass"? Sounds damn like a failed buyout negotiations to us. Palm's history is one of acquisitions: first it was bought by US Robotics, which in turn was snapped up by 3Com. Earlier this week, it emerged Bill Gates had attempted to buy the company from its current owner, though, apparently like Jobs, he was rebuffed. Given the disparity between the Palm line and the rest of 3Com's products, the networking specialist might well take a serious interest in offers to buy Palm. Presumably Apple's bid, if it made one, proved too low. The company may have returned to profitability, but it's not quite in a position to go off buying others, thought, again, Jobs hints that he might well be planning to do so now. Such a deal would have been ironic given one of Jobs first acts on his return to the task of running Apple was to can the Newton handheld project (see Harris bangs Apple's head over Newton). That said, the PalmPilot has proved far more successful than Newton, which always had to battle against the negative impressions Apple created among potential buyers with its first, rather poor version of the technology. Of course, there is a third possibility: hints of a Palm buyout are nothing more than an example of the famous Jobs 'reality distortion field'. In the same interview he claims to have received death threats over his decision to end Apple's MacOS licensing plan, so you can never quite tell. ® Click for more stories

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