Jon Rubinstein, the chairman of Palm, is once again striking former boss Steve Jobs where it hurts — Apple's talent. The latest hire: Lynn Fox, the head of Mac PR, joined Palm earlier this month. For a PR person, she's made the move surprisingly quietly; her name has yet to appear on any press releases. As with Mike Bell, the Apple veteran who now heads Palm's product development, Rubinstein is likely trying to keep things quiet. Relations between Palm and Apple, whose iPhone is walloping Palm's Treo, are tense enough as it is.
Did I just buy my last Palm smartphone? My aging Treo 600 — yes, I hear your snickers already — died at SXSW, and I picked up a cheap Centro to replace it at a Sprint store. (A tip: Skip the $50 rebate and pay $149 instead of $99; the monthly data plan will be less expensive.) Chairman Jon Rubinstein is revamping the company's hardware and software, but does he have enough time? Until the former Apple exec's inventions hit the market, the company has to make do on Centro sales, which swell its unit sales but hit its profit margins. Palm sold a record 833,000 phones in the most recent quarter, but its $312 million in sales came in below Wall Street's hopes. For what it's worth, I love the Centro; if it hadn't locked up at just the wrong moment, I would have beaten Mashable's Pete Cashmore with his iPhone in a text-messaging duel.
Palm has hired Mike Bell, a 16-year Apple veteran, as its SVP of product development. But you'll never hear that from Palm. The hiring of an industry veteran for a top executive spot is something normally trumpeted as loudly as possible. But Palm is desperately trying to keep quiet the fact that it won over Bell shortly before Christmas. Why the silencing effort? Jon Rubinstein, Palm's chairman, was part of Steve Jobs's turnaround team before he left Apple in 2006. Since he joined Palm last year, the smartphone maker has been hiring a number of Apple engineers. There have been "screaming matches and threats of lawsuits," says a plugged-in source.
"Does it remind you of the Foleo?" Palm's never-released "smartphone companion" laptop, killed on the eve of its introduction last September, does look a bit like Apple's new MacBook Air, though the latter is thinner yet and far more powerful. Under the casings, there's little comparison. Which raises a question: Did Jon Rubinstein, the former Apple executive who's now Palm's executive chairman, get some inkling that Apple would be coming out with the MacBook Air?
A anonymous tipster tells us Palm will lay off 250 employees, confirming our previous report. "The biggest cuts are from OS development," our source says. "[SVP Mark] Bercow wants the OS sold by April or worst case scenario — abandoned." Which seems strange, considering Palm went through some gymnastics just to get is old operating system back from the Japanese company, Access, which had bought it. The rumor, however, jibes with the Wall Street Journal's report last week on former Apple exec and current Palm executive chairman Jon Rubinstein's plans for the company.
Former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein, who ushered in the iMac and iBook, was recruited by Palm in mid-July to help pull the company out from under Apple's Birkenstocks and RIM's wingtips. The flailing smartphone maker certainly needs someone to inject something into its product lineup that is, as CEO Ed Colligan concedes, perceived as stale. (Treo, Treo, Treo!) Too bad it didn't happen sooner. Yesterday it was confirmed Palm will have a wave of layoffs, rumored to be in the hundreds, in the next few weeks. Why?