At CES 2009, Palm stole the show when it showcased the Palm Pre. At last, people thought, a true competitor to the iPhone. Though the Pre hasn’t done much to steal the iPhone’s thunder, it was enough to keep Palm afloat at a time when its days seemed numbered.
Spearheading the development of the Palm Pre was former Apple executive Jon Rubenstein who was literally recruited by Palm while he was relaxing on a beach in Mexico, enjoying his retirement. Before that, Rubenstein had spent nearly 20 years working closely with Steve Jobs, and was an integral force behind the development of both the iMac and iPod before retiring from his position as the Senior VP of Apple’s iPod division in 2006. When he finally returned to the workforce at Palm, Rubenstein subsequently recruited a good number of Apple engineers to join him, prompting a rumored and heated conversation between him and Steve Jobs.
As an interesting tidbit, Rubenstein, who is now Palm’s CEO, recently revealed in an interview with Kara Swisher of All Things D that he has never used an iPhone.
“We don’t pay that much attention to Apple….I know it sounds really strange,” says Rubinstein.
“Really?” Kara replies. “You don’t worry about the iPhone?”
“No, I really don’t,” Rubinstein answers.
“I don’t believe you,” says Kara, telegraphing a sentiment I imagine is widely held among the audience.
Rubinstein: “I don’t have an iPhone. I’ve never even used one.”
While on one hand it’s admirable, and strategic, for Palm to set its own path and not blindly follow in the footsteps of Apple (as many seem to do), there’s something to be said for at least having a working knowledge of what the top selling smartphone on the market is capable of doing.