Rumor: The bidding war for Palm was between Google, Lenovo, RIM and.. Apple?

Take this as you will now (the HP/Palm merger is already complete, and none of these companies are ever going to fess up to losing a bidding war) but Business Insider is claiming to have an inside scoop on how the bidding war for Palm went down — and which companies lost out in the end.

The big list? Google, Lenovo, RIM, and — wait for it — Apple.

You see, when Palm filed their merger documentation with the SEC, they mentioned that 16 potential bidders had reached out, with 4 finalists coming up to the plate after the inital contact. Alas, none of these four were ever named; “Company A” through “Company D” supplanted any instances where the actual company names were mentioned, leaving the whole thing in an air of mystery.

According to Business Insider‘s Dan Frommer, it all breaks down as follows (note: while their sources would name names, they wouldn’t tie the names to the specific “Company X” labels — so these should be considered educated guesses):

  • RIM purportedly offered $6-7 a share and “had the deal in its hands”, only to back down to $5.50 a share.
  • Lenovo purportedly offered a stock-for-stock trade, but the deal would have taken too long for Palm’s liking
  • Google allegedly discussed snatching up Palm’s monstrous patent portfolio, but the deal never took off
  • Last, but very much not least: Apple supposedly offered $600 million cash straight up and planted their feet, refusing to go any higher. HP’s deal came through at a bit over double this, at just past $1.2 billion.

So, why would Apple want Palm? They wouldn’t. They’d have wanted Palm’s patent portfolio. Hundreds upon hundreds of items deep, Palm’s portfolio stretches across all reaches of the mobile world, essentially protecting them from any lawsuits. Even if some company owned a patent they felt Palm was infringing, chances were that Palm could turn things around with a handful of patents of their own that the other company was infringing upon. It’s referred to within Palm as a Porcupine strategy; patents are quills, and no one wants to rub the company with the most quills the wrong way.

At the very least, this is all an interesting insight into what could have happened. Whereas HP plans to build webOS into their future tablets, printers, and whatever other gadgets they can squeeze it into, Apple almost certainly would have killed off webOS immediately. Sure, certain elements of webOS (like, say, the notification system) most likely would have found their way into iOS — but webOS, as we know it today, would be dead.