Feeds

Palm rejected Jobs's 'no poaching' Applers offer

Legality questioned

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Two years ago, Apple chief exec Steve Jobs suggested to Palm's then-CEO Ed Colligan that the two companies agree not to hire each other's employees. Colligan reportedly refused, saying such a deal would be "likely illegal".

These revelations come in a report by Bloomberg on Thursday, less than two weeks after a similar agreement was reported between Apple and Google.

The report cites "communications" between Jobs and Colligan in August 2007 as its source. Apple's iPhone had been released in late June, coincidentally the same month that Apple's former iPod division chief Jon Rubinstein had joined Palm as executive chairman.

According to Bloomberg, Jobs told Colligan that he was anxious about Rubinstein poaching Apple talent. "We must do whatever we can to stop this," Jobs is reported to have told Colligan.

Rubinstein certainly knew who at Apple was worth luring away. After playing a key role in the development of the Apple-saving iMac, released in 1998, Rubinstein had gone on to shepherd the development of the iPod, released in late 2001, as head of Cupertino's hardware division. He was picked by Jobs to head up Cupertino's then-new iPod division in 2004.

After 15 years of working closely with Jobs, Rubenstein left Apple in 2006, joined Palm in 2007, and took over from Colligan as Palm's chairman and CEO this June.

After Colligan was contacted by Jobs in 2007, the communications reveal that he considered Jobs's offer, but ultimately rejected it, reportedly telling him that: "Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other's employees, regardless of the individual's desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal."

The illegality of such a deal would likely be based on its anticompetitive nature - and the US Justice Department isn't turning a blind eye towards such hiring practices. This June, reports surfaced that a number of top tech companies were being investigated by the DoJ for anticompetitive HR shenanigans.

According to a June report by The New York Times, Google, Genentech, and Yahoo! confirmed that the DoJ had contacted them. Apple, Microsoft, and Intel declined to comment for the NYT report.

At issue in the DoJ investigation, according to the NYT, is whether tech companies have "gentleman's agreements" to not go after one another's employees.

But Colligan's reported communication declining Jobs's offer appears to take a "don't poach" agreement one step further. Colligan's phrase "regardless of the individual's desires" implies that Jobs had requested that Palm not only to refrain from recruiting Apple employees, but also to turn them down if they came calling on their own.

The Bloomberg report quotes Daniel Rubinfeld, a former deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust and currently a UC Berkeley law professor, as saying: "If I were at DoJ, I would definitely be interested.”

Today's revelations won't do much to thaw the Palm-Apple relationship, which has become frosty of late. Consider the back-and-forth battle between the two companies over the ability of Palm's Pre smartphone to sync with Apple's iTunes music-organization software. Consider also Jobsian stand-in Tim Cook's not-so-veiled patent-infringment threats regarding the Pre that he made during conference calls with reporters and analysts this January and April.

Apple hasn't sued Palm for patent infringement, nor has it made any legal moves to stop the Pre from mimicking an iPod when hooked up to iTunes. And although The Reg has no inside information whether such actions were in preparation in Cupertino, we'll go out on a limb and predict that Apple's legal team will be preoccupied by answering a few DoJ queries in the immediate future.

When contacted by The Reg, spokespersons for both Apple and Palm declined to comment on the Bloomberg report. ®

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple ran off to IBM
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.