The Washington Times - April 28, 2010, 04:39PM

As the late sportswriter Jimmy Cannon used to say, “Nobody asked me, but …” And here, the “but” is that this writer believes Hewlett-Packard may have just flushed a boatload of cash down the drain buying a handheld device company long past its prime.

HP announced the deal to acquire Palm Inc. on Wednesday afternoon. The firm, which generally has made very sensible moves in the past couple of years, now is betting a rather large sum (for most of us, not necessarily for HP, which has a market capitalization of $125 billion) on a firm that (a) hasn’t made a dent in the iPhone/BlackBerry/smartphone dominance of the market; (b) hasn’t come anywhere close to Apple’s iPhone App Store in number of available programs; and (c) seems oddly quaint, given the ascendency of Google’s Android smartphone operating system.

To me, and I’ve only been covering this stuff since Ronald Reagan’s first term, it seems like a bad bet. Along with these negatives, I have to imagine the HP move won’t bank a lot of love with Microsoft Corp., which is hoping to push its own Windows Mobile OS back onto smartphones. Microsoft was the previous OS supplier to HP, back when HP-owned Compaq had a pretty fair slice of the smartphone market.

I’ve learned, over the years, generally not to bet against HP: they’re a smart company whose leadership certainly knows more than I do about the market. But while I was once a major Palm fan, the luster has gone off that relationship (the Pre smartphone isn’t worth the effort, in my view), and I don’t know what, if anything, can be applied to buff that one up again.