D7 Interview: Jon Rubinstein and Roger McNamee talk up Palm Pre

“Jon Rubinstein is an Apple veteran who’s now Palm’s executive chairman. And Roger McNamee, managing director of Elevation Partners, is the guy who recruited him for that position. Together, they’re remaking Palm in a bet-the-company move to recover its long-lost glory,” John Paczkowski reports for AllThingsD.

Highlights from their D7 appearance include:

• McNamee and Rubenstein say Palm took the cultural legacy that created the Palm and the Treo and applied it to the smartphone.

MacDailyNews Take: B.S. They took Apple’s Newton team’s legacy, which is what created the Palm (and Handspring, not Palm, created the Treo), then took apart Apple’s iPhone and reassembled it to produce yet another iPhone knockoff; this one with a poorly-conceived slide-out mechanical keyboard that only works (or not) when the device is held in one orientation. No wonder Rubinstein is out of Apple instead of running it while Jobs is out on leave.

• Kara Swisher asks how Rubenstein came to Palm. He says it was a compelling idea to take something that needed to be turned around and rebuild it. “It’s so rare to be able to start with a blank sheet of paper and start over. And we were given a blank sheet of paper with the device and the OS.”

• What lessons from Apple has Rubenstein brought to bear on his new work at Palm? “I worked with Steve for many years and learned a tremendous amount from him, the value of user experience and design — taste. I also learned the idea of great marketing. … On the engineering side, I helped created the engineering culture at Apple so obviously, the engineering culture at Palm bears some similarities to it.”

MacDailyNews Take: If Jon was actually so great, he’d still be with Apple, leading the way, instead of at a company on life support trying to market Apple product knockoffs as they have always done (see: Newton). Palm is a serial follower.

• Pre does indeed sync with iTunes, though it’s hamstrung by Apple’s [no longer sold] DRM protected songs. Can’t imagine Apple’s too happy about that. Presumably, Apple legal is already drafting a letter. Pre appears to make iTunes think it’s an iPod.

• How is Apple going to feel about that, asks Walt. Rubenstein dodges a bit noting that there are a variety of ways of getting music out of iTunes. Walt pushes back pointing out that this is the first non-Apple device that is recognized as an Apple device by a Mac. Rubenstein dodges again. Rubinstein obviously using his Apple knowledge here. McNamee jumps in. Apple is ‘practically a monopolist,’ he says, adding that people should be able to use music that they purchase in what ever way they see fit.

MacDailyNews Take: Bzzzt. FAIL. McNamee has diarrhea of the mouth and is potentially a blooming idiot. As for Rubenstein, you can’t work for BMW, leave the company (willfully or forcefully), and then pop up a bit later at Chrysler announcing cars containing what is obviously BMW technology developed at BMW’s expense. We smell a lawsuit.

Media sync feature also works with iPhoto and syncs photos to the Pre. That’s not likely to go over well at Apple either.

Moving on now to WebOS, Palm’s new operating system. Key feature is the Web App Catalog, Palm’s analog to Apple’s App store. Palm will have just a dozen or so apps in the store when the Pre launches next week. Kara jokes that Palm should simply port all the apps in the Apple’s App Store over to its own store.

MacDailyNews Take: Why not? If you’re gonna steal, you might as well steal the whole store.

Pre Apps do not sync with iTunes, they’re stored on the device.

• Walt asks about Palm’s competitors. Clearly Apple and RIM, says Rubenstein. He adds that the battle that’s going to be fought is not about hardware, but software. McNamee interrupts to say the opportunity here is to persuade people to move from the “feature phone” to the integrated device. Apparently, the iPhone is a feature phone and the Pre is the integrated device here. McNamee going on and on about the Pre’s design. Feels great in the hand. The Pre has a mirror. “Never before has a device like this been designed for a woman.” Nice, Roger. Perhaps someday it will include a blow dryer as well.

More talk about McNamee’s women-like-mirrors comment. McNamee says device makers typically do not target the female audience. They traditionally target a male, testosterone-driven audience. McNamee seems to think the Pre will appeal to a wider audience –one with a larger female contingent than the iPhone and BlackBerry. McNamee appealing to audience to confirm its love of mirrors…

MacDailyNews Take: From two Takes up, remove the word “potentially.”

• Walt notes that the SDK hasn’t been widely distributed yet and the Pre is just days away from launch. Rubenstein says this was purposeful. “We’re doing this methodically.” There are hundreds of developers with the SDK right now, and thousands in the queue waiting for it. Why? McNamee jumps in again and says the company wants to get it right, but seems to suggest that the SDK may not be quite as polished as Palm would like.

• McNamee: “As a generalization everything you’re used to in an iPhone will be in the Pre as well. And if it’s not there initially it will be there soon.”

MacDailyNews Take: That’ll work quite nicely in a lawsuit, too. Keep talking, Rog.

Does Palm worry that Apple might break the Pre’s iTunes sync feature? McNamee doesn’t seem to think so. “We’re recognizing their market dominance …. and they can’t tell people what to do with their music.”

MacDailyNews Take: Dunce.

• McNamee on his investment in Palm and the Pre: If I could have put everything into it, I would have.

MacDailyNews Take: A fool and his money are soon parted.

The full interview is here.

MacDailyNews Notes:

• We’ve been pushing the state-of-the-art in every facet of design… We’ve been innovating like crazy for the last few years on this and we’ve filed for over 200 patents for all of the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them.Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiling iPhone, January 9, 2007

• It’s difficult to judge products that are not yet in the market, but iPhone has sold over 17 million units thus far and has received the highest user satisfaction in multiple independent surveys. We’re years ahead on software and that includes the App Store. We approach this business as a software platform business unlike many who approach it as a hardware product. We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP, in which case we will go after them. We will not stand for having our IP ripped-off and we will use any weapons at our disposal [to stop it].Apple COO Tim Cook, January 21, 2009

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