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Oh how the mighty have fallen.

18 years ago, Palm was founded by Jeff Hawkins. Since then, it has had a tumultuous history of being acquired (in 1995 by U.S. Robotics Corp, which was then acquried by 3Com in 1997), IPOing during the dot-com boom, and splitting off into two pieces in 2002.

Yet despite all of that history, Palm has survived, powered by the likes of the Palm Pilot and the Treo.

It may be the end of the line for Palm, though. About two weeks ago, we learned that Palm was up for sale. HTC and Lenovo were mentioned as possible buyers, but now HTC is dropping out of the race. And if Lenovo doesn’t buy Palm, then there may be nobody left to foot the bill.

Will Palm Survive?

Not only is the company seemingly on its last legs, but it is losing senior talent fast. When you combine stalled sales, a market dominated by Google and Apple, and a brain drain, its no wonder everybody’s so down on Palm.

Just look at what’s happened to Palm over the last decade. I’ve added Apple’s graph for comparison:

Is Palm crumbling before our very eyes? It most certainly is; the Palm Pre simply couldn’t compete with the iPhone and Android phones for a number of reasons. It doesn’t matter anymore whose fault it is . What matters now is whether Palm can find a partner or a buyer that will save the company from certain destruction.

Will Lenovo buy Palm and try to leverage the brand in a quest to expand throughout the U.S.? Will another suitor swoop in? Or could Palm find a way to make a deal to license its WebOS?

While we’ve heard rather far-fetched ideas such as Facebook rebranding WebOS as the Facebook Phone, we think it’s far more likely that Palm is acquired at a far cheaper price than the company would like. While WebOS is great technology in a lot of ways, it’s very unlikely that it can make a comeback against the likes of RIM, Google, and Apple.

Palm has a lot to offer: talent, brand, patents, and technology, all of which could be put to good use by a smart and savvy company looking to become a power player in mobile. But will someone buy them before the piggy bank runs out? We hope so, but we’re not going to make any bets.

Reviews: Android, Google

Tags: business, htc, lenovo, Mobile 2.0, palm, Palm Pixi, Palm Pre, Rubinstein, webOS