Sony keen to buy PalmSource

Or Symbian if Palm won't sell

Sony's chairman and CEO, Nobuyuki Idei, would buy Palm's system software division given half a chance - or "if they want to sell", according to the man himself in an interview with web site AlwaysOn.

And if he can't get PalmSource, Symbian will do: "I really want to own either Symbian or Palm - I want to buy them," he says.

To be fair, this desire isn't technolust but pragmatism. Sony pays PalmSource "lots of money" to license the Palm OS for its Clie PDAs.

And then there's the fact that Sony's phones run Symbian while its PDAs run Palm. Buying one or t'other would seem to be Idei's scheme for unifying these two application segments - whether from an organisational basis or for product (ie. a smarphone) reasons isn't clear.

Palm seems to be his preference. "In terms of our OS strategy," admits Idei, "it is not clear whether Symbian... is the right way to go for the mobile phone."

Certainly Sony is in an interesting position. As a piece in the Economist last week noted, Sony's key success - the PlayStation - came from a left-field team who bypassed the company's traditional engineering base and so developed a product unencumbered by that group's conservatism. Idei may have learned the lesson: that Sony's best hope for innovation comes from groups free of the company's corporate culture.

That could include Apple. Idei claims he doesn't understand whether Apple is "a software company or a hardware company" (clue: it's both), but the company was embarrassed by Apple's success with the iPod MP3 music player, the Economist claims. The same article suggests Sony should look to Apple's record on design and innovation as an example to follow, but given Idei's interest in buying interesting companies, perhaps a sale might be better?

Sony could then free itself from its chief rival, Microsoft, alogether. Could it be time to stoke up all those 'Sony to buy Apple' rumours again?

Well, if Apple does come out with an online music service that will be the envy of the major labels (including a certain Sony Music Entertainment), perhaps Idei should pay a visit to Cupertino when he's next in the Valley for a chat with Palm... ®

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AlwaysOn interviews Sony's Nobuyuki Idei

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