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TCL Brings Palm Back to Life, New Devices This Year

LAS VEGAS - Palm fans, rejoice! Chinese electronics company TCL is reviving the smartphone pioneer, announcing today its acquisition of the Palm brand. At a small, private press event here at CES, TCL said it hopes to release a new Palm device, with input from fans, by the end of 2015. 

TCL CEO George Guo said the company had acquired the Palm brand through a subsidiary, but could not disclose price and other details due to a confidentiality clause in the contract. TCL is creating a new Palm Inc, which will be based in California. TCL did not, however, acquire WebOS, Palm's last operating system before its demise. HP first acquired WebOS, and then sold it to LG, which uses the software to power its smart TVs. "It doesn't really impact us at all," said LG's chief US spokesman, John Taylor.

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While details are still very sparse on what TCL plans to do with Palm, one thing is clear: the company will open the development process up to the public. The goal is to crowd source ideas for the new Palm. As it is still figuring out the legalities involved, TCL does not have details on how fans can participate in that process yet, but says it will at least have a website that it intends to develop "very quickly."

Fans will have a say in everything from hardware design and software to the user experience, as TCL says it will be creating the next Palm device "from scratch."

Guo said TCL also has its own ideas on what to do, but is waiting to share those plans. Since LG now owns webOS, it's unlikely that the new Palm will return to its old software roots. But Guo said that will also depend on what the fans have to say.

TCL is now the fifth largest global handsets vendor operating under the Alcatel Onetouch brand (under TCL brand in China). Palm Inc will be able to leverage TCL group's vast resources, including more than 5,000 engineers in various departments.

Staff Writer Cherlynn Low covers smartphones, wearables and cameras for Tom's Guide. Follow her @cherlynnlow. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide on Facebook.