App Industry Roundup: Five bidders interested in Palm before HP sealed deal

by Eric Benderoff

There was a bidding war for Palm before HP agreed to buy the smartphone maker for $1.2 billion, a surprising development that leads today's App Industry Roundup. Also, if you want to make money selling apps, the right promotions go a long way while HTC continues to deliver the Android industry's most interesting phones.

This might be hard to believe, but apparently five companies expressed serious interest in buying Palm Inc before Hewlett-Packard finalized a deal to buy the company for $1.2 billion. HP, which has struggled to gain traction in the smartphone market even though it sells a product that starts with a lower-case i -- the iPaq -- hopes a marriage with the innovative but also struggling Palm will jump start its position in a market increasingly dominated by Apple and Google.

In an interesting read, HP wasn't the only bidder and at one point was told it's bid was "not competitive," according to a recent shareholder statement by Palm that Engadget uncovered. The decision to sell Palm was part of a plan the company hatched in February, after it was clear that its new Palm OS and generally well-regarded phones were not capturing market share. Sales were disappointing and the company considered "everything from licensing webOS to selling the company," Engadget reports.

We know how the story ends, but how Palm got to that point is what makes the story compelling. More details are needed, including information on the identity of the other bidders -- Engadget speculates as possibly Lenovo, ZTE and Dell -- but I suspect we'll find out eventually.

Selling apps? A nod from Apple provides a major boost

The question of how developers can make money selling apps is one that probably a million folks think about every day. Alex Ahlund, an adviser to Appolicous.com, which publishes this report, provided a breakdown for TechCrunch on what's working and what's not.

Ahlund conducted a survey and collected data from 124 developers who sold apps that range in price from 99 cents to $79.99. Now, considering there are about 200,000 apps available at iTunes as of this writing the survey might be not be "precise," a notion that Ahlund cautions about. "Therefore, I strongly encourage you to interpret this information only as an overview of the industry, which, like any others, has its blockbusters, stragglers and everything in between," he writes.

Still, the information will be valuable for anyone who is developing apps and for those folks who are considering doing so. Key findings include that a prominent display of the app by Apple at the iTunes store can be the biggest contributor to success while apps with third-party product tie-ins "gained a significant boost from that relationship."

In other words, promotion matters. 

Gear: HTC keeps the hot products coming

In my view, the most interesting smartphone maker right now is HTC. The Taiwanese company has provided the most innovative and fun Android phone so far this year with the HTC Incredible, a distinction the company may soon eclipse with two new products. The HTC Evo will hit Sprint stores on June 4th for $199. This phone will be the nation's first to run on a 4G network and it features a very generous screen at 4.3 inches. (The phone includes a kickstand to better appreciate video content screen's larger display.)

Now comes word that HTC will be offering yet another Android phone this fall, this time targeting the younger set with the HTC Wildfire, social-networking conscious phone that was named by a poll on Facebook. The phone will have a deep integration with Facebook, displaying a caller's most recent status update when a call comes in. (Instant conversation starter!) Also, it will feature an app recommendation tool so users can send information on their favorite Android apps to friends via text message, email or Facebook. Links can be included so friends can download recommended apps directly from the Android marketplace.

See, I told you HTC is pretty interesting.