Palm’s Rubinstein: ‘I don’t have an iPhone, I’ve never even used one’

Apple Online Store Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein “has managed to stir up plenty of trouble for the company with a brief aside at a CES Q&A session that has now taken on a life of its own,” Bobbie Johnson reports for The Guardian. “In an on-stage discussion at the show, Rubinstein told Kara Swisher from AllThingsD said that he had never used an iPhone: ‘We don’t pay that much attention to Apple – I know it sounds really strange,’ he said. ‘I don’t have an iPhone. I’ve never even used one.'”

“Coming from any other phone maker positioning itself as a rival to Apple, that might seem like hubris,” Johnson reports. “Coming from Rubinstein – who was one of Steve Jobs’s closest lieutenants until he left Apple in 2006 – it seems like something else.”

“Rubinstein, who took a hands-on role in product development when he arrived at Palm, is a private man,” Johnson reports. “He spent years working alongside Jobs and was one of the major architects of the iPod project, which is what really helped Apple overturn its troubles and surge back to success.”

Johnson reports, “So his iPhone comment is strange. Is Rubinstein suggesting that he never saw an iPhone while he worked at Apple? Or is he saying that, in the 18-month downtime, this technology industry veteran of more than 30 years didn’t have any interest in Apple’s new handset? It’s not even like he was working for Palm when the iPhone was launched: famously, he took a long holiday until he was tempted to get back into the race in October 2007.”

Full article here.

Video of Rubinstein’s statements here.

MacDailyNews Take: Do you believe Jon? If so, he’s just admitted to dereliction of duty. CEOs who are properly performing their jobs need to keep up with their competitors’ products. In fact, they should be intimately familiar with how their competitors’ products work, how they’re constructed, etc. so that they can plan their company’s competitive strategies. This comment is even more eyebrow arching, since Palm’s current products wouldn’t even exist without Apple’s iPhone.

Jon’s comment says quite a bit more than he probably intended: He’s either a liar or an incompetent or, most likely, both.

See, Jon? It’s not that easy to run a company, now is it? After Palm is finally bought by an even bigger fool than you (good luck with that search) or goes tits up like it should’ve two years ago, why don’t you go back to Mexico, sit on the beach, and repeat: “I’m no Steve Jobs; not even close. I’m not even CEO material. I’m no Steve Jobs; not even close. I blew it bigtime when I left Apple. I’m no Steve Jobs; not even close…”


  1. I think Rubinstein has done about as good a job as anyone could hope to do to try to turn around the mess that Palm had made all over itself. He’s coming up short for sure, but he might pull off that buyout before he spots the next shiny object.

  2. With initials like JR it is amazing that he hasn’t read his Machiavelli:

    “He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss.”

    “Men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, for everyone can see and few can feel. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.”

    “There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.”

    Sun-Tzu is also appropriate here:

    “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

  3. at the least, disingenuous; assuming the worst, simply a liar. both are bad traits for a CEO. this is coming from a company that tried to spoof its way into iTunes integration. is he going to claim he knew nothing about that? i don’t think he left, i think they changed the locks to the apple executive bathrooms.

  4. If you aren’t prepared for such a question, you have to think fast, and an answer you come up with may not be the best.

    I’m sure Rubinstein never expected to be asked about whether he had an iPhone (although he should have, knowing his position). So, when the question came up, he had to think quick.

    A proper answer should have bee something along the lines of: “I don’t own one, but I took some time to study it. I also looked at Windows Mobile, Symbian phones, as well as the nascent Android. You know, there are a lot of shortcomings with those phones, including the iPhone. And we at Palm decided to build the device that will offer solutions to them”.

    In other words, he carefully examined the competition, then figure out what’s missing and tried to deliver a device that will have that. That would have been a proper answer from a CEO of a company that is trying to sell a challenger to a dominant produce in the market.

    But instead, he felt that he needed to come across as a loyal, faithful Palm manager, who out of that loyalty doesn’t look at competitors. The way Balmer doesn’t let his kids have iPods.

    I’m sure if he could do it again, he wouldn’t have said it the same. And this is exactly where an average CEO is different from a great CEO. Rubinstein certainly is NOT incompetent; after all, Palm has been able to launch a product (and an OS) that is much better than what they had before. And they continue to be in business, without an imminent danger of folding (after all, they are still selling those Pres by the thousands — there is always someone who will want a smartphone with a physical keyboard on Sprint after all).

    Rubinstein is just an average CEO; nothing more, nothing less.

  5. “He is a lying ass dog”

    That’s a naïve statement. Every single person on this planet lies at one time or another. Some people, due to the nature of their jobs, have to do it much more often than others. Obviously, elected officials cannot go through a single working day without lying.

    It wasn’t about lying; it was about not saying the proper thing (even it that proper thing were also a lie).

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