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Palm to out-iPod Apple with CEO pick

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The individual credited with building the iPod is poised to square off against he who birthed the player, Steve Jobs - or at least his company, Apple.

Palm has named Apple's former iPod division chief Jon Rubinstein as its chairman and chief executive officer, less than two years after he joined fresh from Apple as executive chairman.

Rubinstein will take over from current CEO Ed Colligan, who's stepping down after 16 years with the handset provider. Rubinstein will take charge on June 12, Palm said Wednesday.

The change comes just days after Sprint Nextel - the US's third largest carrier - began shipping the touch-enabled Palm Pre and claimed it had already sold out. The Pre's development was overseen by Rubinstein.

The Pre is priced $199 with a two-year contract and mail-in rebate, features calendar, contact and messaging capabilities, and synchs with Apple's iTunes music store.

Rubinstein joined Palm in October 2007 as Elevation Partners took a meaty 25 per cent stake in the handset provider, worth $325m. Increasingly, it's looking like Elevation took charge with the long-term plan of not just turning Palm around but making it the next Apple for devices in the battle for market share against Research In Motion.

Also joining Rubinstein were Elevation managing director and co-founders Fred Anderson and Roger McNamee, who took board seats. Anderson is a former Apple chief financial officer.

Rubinstein left Apple in 2006, almost ten years after he joined as senior vice president for hardware engineering, during which time he'd overhauled Apple's engineering operations, product roadmaps and manufacturing processes.

Along with the iPod, Rubinstein is credited with delivering the then groundbreaking iMac in 1998 that signaled Apple's return from the computing wilderness.

He landed at Apple after he'd been brought in to run hardware engineering at Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs' failed NeXT computing start up in the early 1990s.

The question for Palm and Rubenstein now is whether he will continue his involvement in technology and manufacturing whilst occupying a role that's more business focused and requires a greater involvement in all of the company's activities - not just one aspect. That aspect, manufacturing and development, has been the hallmark of Rubinstein’s career to-date. ®

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