Reports are swirling around the internet that smartphone pioneer Palm is putting itself up for sale, with rumored suiters that include HTC and Lenovo.

After bringing in former Apple iPod lead Jon Rubinstein and members of Apple's iPhone team, Palm went from an aging PalmOS platform to the ultra-modern webOS which leapfrogged other platforms in several key areas like multitasking, notifications, and social integration. Problems with timing and hardware, however, prevented them getting the traction they needed in the market and led to slower than expected sales.

While the idea of HTC H2D/EVO 4G level hardware no doubt brings drool to the mouth of every true geek, HTC getting a hold of Palm's core mobile patent portfolio could radically equalize the relative positions in Apple's infringement lawsuit.

Although typically left as a throw-away line at the end of blog posts (like we're doing here, sorry!), the idea of Apple buying Palm is also interesting. They obviously have the cash (roughly 40 billion in the bank). Jokes could be made about Steve Jobs just wanting to get Ruby and those engineers back for the pleasure of firing them, but Palm's patents are real and really important.

Apple probably wouldn't have much use for webOS (neither would Microsoft or Google), however, so here's hoping a company that wants webOS, that wants to continue driving it forward with great hardware and strong marketing, picks up Palm.

Apple needs the competition and so do we.

(And we'll add our best wishes to everyone at Palm.)

[Bloomberg via]