Buying Palm would bring the Pre's designers to Windows Phone, and it would annoy Steve Jobs, too: the current team includes Jon Rubenstein, former vice-president of Apple's iPod division, and former Apple developers' champion Chuq Von Rospach.

Andrew Kitson, senior analyst with Juniper Research, suggests that a Microsoft smartphone would be a nice thing to sell in Microsoft's forthcoming retail stores.

Should it be a Palm? "The question comes down to cost," he says. "Would it be more cost-effective to buy an existing player such as Palm, or to just develop a handset family and brand internally?"

Windows Phone needs to go consumer

As Kitson points out, the Pre is a business device where Microsoft needs a cool consumer phone, and making Palm's WebOS work seamlessly with Microsoft products might not be easy. "It might be better to come up with a new iteration of Windows Mobile - but if they dump the OS, what's the point of buying the business?"

Microsoft needs "to come up with a really exciting, definitive and iconic device to capture imaginations, much like the iPhone did when it first appeared. Now everybody's emulating the iPhone. Does that sound like the Palm Pre?"

If the Pre doesn't sell truckloads, Palm's days may be numbered. "Somebody's going to buy it before it goes under, or they might wait until Palm expires, stroll in and buy the assets they really want at a knock down price," Kitson says. "But it could take a couple of years [for that]. Can Microsoft wait that long? Not with Acer, Dell et al piling into the market."

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Liked this? Then check out The highs and lows of a pre-pre Palm

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