Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog World (11/20/01)

Man, sometimes keeping up with the merger game is downright exhausting. Every once in a while we think that maybe it'd be best if we took it easy, limiting ourselves to hearing about the occasional AOL-Time Warner-class megadeal on the nightly news, but where's the drama in that? Instead, we like to focus in on two categories: rumors of who might buy Apple, and rumors of whom Apple might buy. Usually that's not a big deal; the volume of each is pretty light, like the occasional resurrection of the "Disney's buying Apple" story or yesterday's whispers that Apple is looking to snap up Adobe. But every so often the whole which-swallowed-what chain gets out of control.

If you were suckered into buying Palm and/or Handspring stock last year like we were, first of all, we commend you on your intestinal fortitude; the fact that you haven't yet thrown yourself under a moving truck is a testament to your inner strength. Secondly, you may have noticed that those two severely battered stocks bounced nicely higher yesterday, and you may have been wondering why. Well, faithful viewer Stephanie notes that The Register has the skinny: in light of Palm CEO Carl Yankowski's "resignation" last week, people are talking about a potential Palm-Handspring merger. It's purely rumor at this point, and has absolutely no basis in fact, but it's an intriguing enough notion to have sparked Wall Street's imagination.

Now, this relates to Apple in a couple of ways, and the first is a nifty parallel to the Apple comeback story. Instead of Steve Jobs in the role of "cofounder and Once and Future Visionary," you've got Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky. Instead of getting kicked out, Jeff and Donna left when 3Com refused to spin off Palm as a separate company, but just as Steve then went on to create NeXT, Jeff and Donna cofounded Handspring-- the company they had wanted Palm to be. Just like the post-Steve Apple eventually almost drowned in mismanagement and red ink, the current Palm is beleaguered with a capital "B." And if this supposed merger ever comes to pass, the Hawkins/Dubinsky team would be back at Palm like Steve returned to save Apple's bacon. It just goes to prove that there are no new stories in this world, except for possibly one involving a dyslexic wildebeest who moves to the city to fulfill his lifelong dream of landing a high-paying job as a hat.

But the other way that this imagined Palmspring merger relates to Apple is purely in the dynamics of corporate takeovers. Try to keep up, here: a few years ago, Apple tried to buy Palm. No go. Then Apple tried to buy Handspring. No dice. Even earlier, Apple almost bought Be, but bought NeXT instead. Now this is where things get goofy: not too long ago, Palm bought Be. Now people are talking about Handspring buying Palm. If that happens, the next step is all too obvious: Apple buys Handspring. All we need now by means of illustration is one of those cartoons in which fish keep getting eaten by bigger fish. So the real question here, is, could Apple just be biding its time to get a three-for-one deal?

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The above scene was taken from the 11/20/01 episode:

November 20, 2001: Buffalo denizens, be thankful; this Friday brings you an Apple retail store (along with three more in various other locales). Meanwhile, Palm-Handspring merger rumors conjure forth strange echoes of the past, and Microsoft offers to settle a slew of private antitrust cases by forcing Windows on inner-city kids...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 3406: Four For The Holidays (11/20/01)   Buffalo-area Mac fans (and yes, by necessity we suppose that includes most of you in Canada), it's time to start suiting up to get in line: both MacCentral and MacNN are now confirming our theory that Apple plans to open four retail stores this Friday: the previously-expected Miami, Santa Clara, and San Diego locations, plus the long-delayed Walden Galleria store...

  • 3408: Cruel And Unusual, Indeed (11/20/01)   Disappointed in the likely conclusion of the "Redmond Justice" case? Heck, we don't blame you. After all, it's been proven in court that Microsoft is a monopoly that illegally abused its power to stifle competition; the company has no more appeals with which to prove otherwise...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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