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Palm Prē design lead ejects from HP

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Demi-disgraced HP chief exec Mark Hurd may have been the most-recent high-level exec to exit that company's Palo Alto headquarters, but he's not alone in his good-bye drive down US Highway 101.

Thanks to TechCrunch, we now learn that Peter Skillman, Palm's now-former vice president of design — and the man who shepherded the design of the Palm Prē — has also bailed. An HP spokeswoman tells The Reg that his resignation came "about a month ago."

Skillman's departure is no small loss to HP. As the company expands beyond the security of the staid PC 'n' server 'n' printer markets and dips its toe into the turbulent 'n' trendy consumer products free-for-all, it's going to need all the vision and design expertise it can get.

Just ask Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive. Or, for that matter, ask Mark Hurd — whose "here's you hat, what's your hurry?" treatment by HP's board of directors may have had as much to do with his nuts-and-bolts, nose-grindstoning lack of visionary trend-spotting as it did with bimbette entanglements and prestidigitatious expense-reporting.

The Palm Prē, no matter its faults — we remember its sharp-edged, hard-to-use keyboard — was a stylish little number. It's design, as Pre|Central reminds us, was called "riverstone" in recognition of its velvety pebblishness.

Pre|Central also reminisces about how the Prē's design team would compare design elements of the li'l smartphone to photos of Zen gardens that they kept in their studio, and "if it didn't fit in the garden, it likely didn't fit on the Prē."

Now HP has lost an 11-year veteran of Palm's design team, a man who could have helped them leverage Palm's webOS into a force in the consumer electronics marketplace.

That task is now more difficult for Palm's CEO, Jon Rubenstein, who remains at HP — although the next time we're driving down 101, we'll check to see if he's in the next lane, heading south. ®

Bootnote

The HP spokeswoman who confirmed Skillman's departure was quick to point out to us that Palm is hiring, as well: namely a new senior director of product managment, Daniel Ljunggren, formerly of Sony Ericsson, who was tagged to head up the "definition and execution of [Palm's] next generation smartphones."

Ljunggren is hardly a replacement for a long-tenured vice president of design, but at minimum his hiring is a welcome confirmation — of sorts — that there will be a next generation of Palm/HP smartphones. And besides, we simply like typing "Ljunggren".

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