Shuttle flight is delayed; Obama visits Giffords

President Barack Obama meets with Space Shuttle Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and shuttle astronauts, after their launch was scrubbed, Friday, April 29, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Palm Inc., a pioneer in the smart-phone business that couldn't quite make the comeback it needed, has agreed to be bought out by Hewlett-Packard for about $1 billion in cash.

The two Silicon Valley companies announced Wednesday that the deal will see HP pay $5.70 for every Palm common share. Palm had closed trading Wednesday at $4.63, but traded as high as $18.09 in the past 52 weeks.

In after-hours trading, Palm shares jumped to $5.88, meaning some investors were willing to bet another suitor will step forward.

Palm was founded in 1992 by Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins and helped originate the handheld computing market with its Palm Pilots in the 1990s.

But after Palm reshuffled itself repeatedly -- it was bought by U.S. Robotics, a modem maker that itself was bought by 3Com in 1997, and then spun off again as its own company in 2000 -- other companies took control of the market.

In recent years Palm struggled to turn around its smart-phone business as consumers flocked to such devices as Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry. More recently, phones that use Google's Android operating software added new competition.

Palm got itself into position for a turnaround last year when it released a new touch-screen smart phone called the Pre, and fresh operating software for it, that won good reviews.

But consumers still were slow to embrace the Pre and its newer, smaller sibling, the Pixi. In the most recent quarter, Palm sold just 408,000 phones, down 29 percent from the previous quarter.

By comparison, Apple sold 8.75 million iPhones during its most recent quarter.

HP hopes Palm's webOS operating system, which runs the Pre and the Pixi, will help it participate more aggressively in the fast-growing market for Internet-connected mobile devices.

HP has a line of phones called the iPAQ, but it had one-tenth of 1 percent of the worldwide cell phone market last year, according to IDC.

IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said HP's deep pockets could help Palm catch up in a smart-phone market that has taken on a furious pace. Motorola, for instance, has said it will put out more than 20 new smart phones this year. Palm has introduced two, and hasn't disclosed plans for more.