Palm’s Rubinstein laments ‘wasted’ sale to HP

FierceWireless Editor Phil Goldstein spoke with Jon Rubinstein, former CEO of Palm and a former executive at Apple, about what he’s doing these days, the influence webOS has had on other mobile platforms, and whether he would have done anything differently.

A few snippets:

FierceWireless: It seems like iOS 7 is taking lots of multitasking cues from webOS. How do you think that platform, webOS, influenced other mobile platforms?
Rubinstein: It’s not just mobile platforms. If you look at the notifications on Mac OS X, it looks just like webOS, too. We did a lot of things that were very, very innovative. Obviously, multitasking, notifications, Synergy, how we handled the multiple cards. There’s a long list of stuff we did that has been adopted by Microsoft, Apple and Android. Our over-the-air updates and mechanism has been updated by everybody. Our whole Synergy concept is now becoming much more common. I don’t think anyone has implemented it as well as we did yet, but clearly they’re all heading down that direction.

FierceWireless: Looking back, if you could do things over again with the rollout of webOS, would you do anything differently?
Rubinstein: Well, I’m not sure I would have sold the company to HP [Hewlett-Packard]. That’s for sure. Talk about a waste. Not that I had any choice because when you sell a company you don’t get to decide that. Obviously, the board and shareholders decide that. If we had known they were just going to shut it down and never really give it a chance to flourish, what would have been the point of selling the company? I think the deal we had with Verizon really hurt us, but who knew that at the time? These things are all hindsight… Palm was dying when I got there. It wasn’t like we had the pick of the litter. Everybody forgets that Palm was pretty much dead when we did the recapitalization. It had no future at the time.

Read more in the full interview, complete with Rubinstein’s usual attempts at revisionist history, here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve forgotten nothing, BS-shoveler. We told you that you were the walking dead the day you unveled webOS and that the HP sale was the final nail in the coffin the day you inked the deal:

Here’s what we wrote just after beleaguered Palm unveiled their Palm Pre and webOS: Palm’s Pre dog and pony show is nothing more than takeover bait. They simply do not have the resources necessary to create another mobile platform, especially one that is superfluous. If Palm’s Pre is not a ruse, then those responsible are kidding themselves.MacDailyNews Take, January 21, 2009

Here’s what we wrote the day HP bought Palm: Okay, so who’s salivating over an HP webOS phone and/or slate PC with no ecosystem of which to speak? That’s right, no one who doesn’t look forward to spending at least 24 hours cooped up alone inside the server room. iPaq.

Buh-bye, Palm.MacDailyNews Take, April 28, 2010

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Neither does this:

Steve Jobs shifted the paradigm. Not you, you footnote (if you’re even that lucky).

Final question: Who has bigger delusions of grandeur, Jon Rubinstein or Kanye West?

[Attribution: InformationWeek. Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “Dan K.” and “Jamie N.” for the heads up.]


  1. so this dude had all the ideas

    yet he didn’t bring it to apple (where he used to work and where he got the breaks and made a bunch a money) but kept it to himself and brought it to Palm (and then poached a whole bunch of apple staff as well who were filled with APPLE IDEAS ).

    so do we feel sorry for him? a dude who got greedy tried to fight and hurt his old company and mentor (Jobs ) and failed.

      1. Rubenstein retired from apple on March 2006 and continued as a consultant (he wasn’t kicked out)
        he was working for Palm in 2007 (Ceo in 2009)
        Retired several months is ‘quite some time’? Palm Pre with WebOS was launched early in 2009 at CES.
        also like I said he poached a whole bunch of apple staff. Jobs was so angry he threatened Palm.

  2. @MDN Take: Kanye wins hands down, although props to the other tool for making a real effort at being the bigger loser.
    What’s sad is all the press KW is getting by using Jobs name in vein. It was probably on purpose too. KW to SJ is like saying a spoiled & rotting hot dog is a meal as much as an unlimited budget Ruth Chris dinner (respectively)

  3. What a bunch of BS. Of course most if not all these mentioned companies could have already implemented all that stuff. But the hardware, OS and much more important the “over the air infrastructure” was not up to par or ready for such implementation on a reliable scale. PALM wanted to be noticed and slapped it all together just so they can say we can do it, we have it. What they left out was “Yes we can do all that stuff, but its a crap shoot that it will work every time…but hey we got that on our feature list!”

  4. Palm had a good thing started with webOS, it’s just too bad it didn’t have the resources to bring a proper handset to market. It should have partnered with someone like Motorola for production instead of trying to do both the OS and hardware. I think that if Palm had gone the way of just developing the OS, it could be Apple’s rival over Android right now.

      1. Agreed. I really like WebOS. My wife’s Pre2 was soooo much better than my motorola Droid which had better specs. I bought a cheap HP touchpad and use it regularly for email, web surfing and reading.

  5. John Rubinstein thinks he was the brain behind the iPod, but in reality, he left apple and apple still a very successfully company. On the contrary, he joined PALM and now Palm is a dead company, who do you think is really the brain behind all apple success and who was just an employee?

  6. Let’s not forget that Palm initially became successful by producing a simpler and cheaper version of the Newton. When the PDA/smartphone industry grew up and became sophisticated, Palm had the wrong DNA.

  7. I figured someone would dig Ruby up. Hey Rube, you stole the idea of the Palm Pre and webOS. Your Synergy “vision” was non-existent before Steve Jobs walked onto that Macworld stage in January 2007 and showed you the spaceship he and Jony had built. Once takeoff commenced, you decided you could make it to the moon faster. Then after you crash landed, Jony picked up a few pieces from the wreckage to improve his ship for the NeXT successful trip. It’s the circle of life.

    But hey Rube, thanks for Cards, man. It’s gonna be huge in making iOS easier to use and more visually appealing. Just think, about a minute after iOS 7 is made available OTA, there will be more people using Cards on their iPhones than every Palm Pre you sold combined. Assuming any of Steve’s taste rubbed off on you, you’ll probably be one of them.

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