RealTime IT News

Palm, Handspring Merger Clears Antitrust Hurdle

Two of the biggest names in the wireless PDA convergence space moved a step closer to merging Friday with an announcement from Milpitas, Calif.-based Palm that the antitrust waiting period for its purchase of Handspring had expired.

The expiration of the waiting period required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Anti-Trust Improvements Act clears the way for the closing of the $169 million stock swap deal hammered out between the former rivals earlier this year.

The acquisition is expected to close in the fall, subject to certain conditions, including approval from both companies' stockholders, Palm said in a brief statement.

Palm Solutions CEO Todd Bradley, who will lead the combined Palm/Handspring unit, said the passing of the antitrust waiting period clears the way for the creation of a firm providing the "broadest portfolio of mobile computing and communications solutions from the most-experienced leadership team in the industry."

Even as analysts continue to express concerns about the fundamentals of both companies, the eventual merger of two former bitter competitors is sure to mark a definite shift in the crowded PDA market.

The completion of the merger could not come at a better time for Palm, which competes head-on with the likes of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and the embattled Research in Motion (RIM)

Earlier this week, a U.S. District Judge ordered RIM to stop selling its flagship BlackBerry handheld devices in the U.S. -- its largest market -- because technology within the two-way pagers infringed on patents owned by Virginia-based NTP Inc.

The judge then delayed the impact of the ruling to allow RIM to file an appeal and ordered the company to pay approximately $54 million in damages and legal fees to NTP. But, even though RIM can continue marketing Blackberry devices in the U.S., analysts believe the "fear and uncertainty" could open the doors for RIM's competitors, especially Palm.

Palm and Handspring both license certain patents own by RIM for its thumb-operated (QWERTY) keyboard technology.