The iconic but struggling tech company Palm has put itself up for sale, and commentators are debating who has the most to gain from buying it. Palm ushered in the smartphone era in 2002 with its Treo line, but has lately fallen far behind competitors like Research In Motion (RIM) and Apple, and now faces a cash crunch. (Watch a Bloomberg discussion about Palm's prospects.) Who is most likely to snap up the company that just last year intoduced the much-hyped Pre?

1. HTC
This maker of the Google Phone is at the top of the "short list" of buyers, says Jesus Diaz in Gizmodo. The main appeal is Palm's treasure trove of patents, which might prove useful in HTC's legal war with Apple — and simply as a way to improve HTC's products.

2. Reasearch In Motion
RIM's Blackberry line of smartphones is doing very well, particularly among business-types, says Larry Dignan in ZDNet. But the company is in dire need of an "operating system" for future products — and that's exactly what Palm brings to the table with its proprietary "Palm webOS." Plus, RIM has never been "shy about acquisitions."

3. Levono
This Chinese computer-maker "is high on the list of companies that seem like they should have a burgeoning global smartphone presence," says Chriz Ziegler in Engadget, "but inexplicably don't." And "without a shred of smartphone credibility outside" China, buying Palm "would be an awfully quick way to jump-start" its global presence.

4. Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp.
China's two largest cellphone manufacturers have already expressed interest in Palm, say Serena Saitto and Ari Levy in Bloomberg News. Both could easily "leverage both the Palm brand and its technology" to help expand their already growing global empires, adds technology consultant Jack Gold in an interview with BusinessWeek.

5. No one
There are plenty of reasons to be cautious about Palm, says Michael Corkery in the Wall Street Journal, including the rumored $1.1 billion price tag. Other suitors might follow the lead of Dell — once considered a potential acquirer — and decide the smartphone maker simply isn't worth it. Remember, "not all bidding processes end in a deal."