When Palm debuted the Palm Pre at CES 2009, folks were saying that the iPhone had finally met its match. Obviously, the Palm Pre was never able to put a dent into the iPhone’s armor, and looking back, those predictions seem utterly absurd. But the reason the Pre was able to generate so much hype was because the OS that powered the device, aka WebOS, was so intuitive and polished that it reminded folks of something that might come out of Apple. And not surprisingly, the team that brought the Pre to life was indeed comprised of a number of former Apple engineers, most notably former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein.
But the top interface guru behind Palm’s WebOS was VP Matias Duarte, the mind behind the highly regarded user interface on the Danger Sidekick, not to mention the work he did at Helio before joining Palm in 2007. Indeed, it was Duarte who showcased the Palm Pre to the world back at CES 2009.
And now that HP has acquired Palm, it appears that not everyone will be on board for HP’s plans to double down on WebOS. Duarte was recently snatched up by Google where he will serve as the Director of the Android User Experience Group. While Android phones have been able to match the iPhone on a strict spec-to-spec comparison, Google’s mobile OS still can’t hold a candle to the iPhone OS when it comes to ease of use and thoughtful design. The hiring of Duarte shows that Google understands this and is taking steps to further close the UI gap between Android and the iPhone.
And as talented designers tend to be, Duarte’s expertise and interests expand well beyond the realm of computers. In addition to studying Computer Science while at the University of Maryland, Duarte also majored in Fine Art and Art History. And according to his LinkedIn profile, he even managed the U of Maryland Student Art Gallery for three years. What a guy!