While Apple’s iPad garnered much of the attention in 2010, HP’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm should offer consumers more choices and help keep prices down in the smartphone and tablet markets. HP outmaneuvered several rivals, including Apple, Research In Motion (maker of the Blackberry), and Google, to gain a toehold in the mobile device market. HP now owns Palm’s patents and can utilize its talented technical staff to develop smartphones and other products using its proprietary mobile operating system. Competition in this area promises to be fierce, with the introduction of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, which is just hitting the store shelves, as well as Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. The benefit to the consumer is not immediate but will take the form of lower acquisition costs of new products down the road.