webOS daddy Jon Rubinstein exits HP
Enough is enough: 'I'm gonna go for a swim, have a little lunch..."
Jon Rubinstein, late of NeXT, FirePower, Apple, and Palm, has resigned from his position at HP, where he endured the mismanagement and eventual overboarding of Palm's webOS mobile operating system.
"Jon Rubinstein has fulfilled his commitment to HP," an HP spokesperson emailed The Reg. "We wish him well."
Rubinstein told The Verge that he had planned to stay at HP for 12 to 24 months after that troubled company acquired Palm and webOS. He lasted 19 months.
Speaking of his time at Palm before the acquisition, he said, "We ran out of runway, and we ended up at HP and HP wasn't in good enough shape on its own to be able to support the effort."
Those 19 months at HP were turbulent, indeed. "I had four CEOs!" Rubinstein said. "Mark [Hurd] acquired us, Cathie Lesjak took over as the interim CEO, then Leo [Apotheker], and now Meg [Whitman]."
After that bumper-car ride, and after the open sourcing of the operating system he shepherded through both Palm and HP, enough was apparently enough for Rubinstein. And, equally apparently, for HP.
Rubinstein's next step will be to chill. "I'm going to take a break," he told AllThingsD.
But retirement isn't in the cards. "I'm going to spend some time with my family and think about what to do next," he said. "Who knows what I'll do. Anything's possible.
Rubinstein's latest stint at HP wasn't his first. According to Bloomberg, Rubinstein architected the HP 9000 Series 300 workstation line, and was part of the team that designed the HP 9836.
After another Silicon Valley two-step or two, he then went on to become COO of PowerPC systems designer FirePower, which was acquired by Motorola in the summer of 1996. From there he went to Steve Jobs' nascent NeXT Computer, which he left a few years before that failing company – and Jobs – were acquired by Apple. Jobs suggested to Apple's soon-to-be-ex-CEO Gil Amelio that he hire Rubinstein, advice he took.
Apple, Palm, HP, margaritas
At Apple, Rubinstein led the iMac development team, which whipped into product form a concept that designer Jonathan Ive had proposed a few years earlier, and which Jobs championed after his rise to the CEO position – interim or otherwise.
Although he also led the team that developed the Mac G4 and G5 lines, Rubinstein is perhaps best known as the father of Apple's game-changing iPod, which he brought to market with the help of Ive and engineer Tony Fadell – even marketing honcho Phil Schiller is said to have gotten into the act by suggesting the iPod's scroll-wheel interface.
After leaving his position as head of the successful iPod division in March 2006, Rubinstein joined Palm in 2007, just as that company struggled to reshape its identity as the personal digital assistant (PDA) market it had dominated was facing certain doom from the rise of feature phones and then smartphones.
Rubenstein introduced Palm's webOS mobile operating system and its first phone, the Palm Pre, in January 2009. In June of that year, Rubinstein took over as Palm CEO from 16-year Palm veteran Ed Colligan.
Despite generally favorable reviews – including one from this reporter – the Pre was not able to overcome the iPhone juggernaut (or the many-tentacled reach of Android, for that matter), and it never really caught on.
After admitting in March 2010 that Palm's troubles were "deeply disappointing" to him, Rubinstein sidestepped rumors that the company was up for sale, despite speculation that HTC, ZTE, and Lenovo were showing interest.
In April of that year, Rubinstein told the Financial Times that "Palm can survive as an independent company" and that they had "a plan that gets us to profitability". Five days later, HP bought Palm for $1.2bn.
And we all know how well that partnership worked out. Remember HP's grand plan to put webOS in HP printers and onto HP PCs? Fuggeddaboutit.
For those of us who were fans of webOS – despite its rocky start, its less than stellar wooing of developers, and its somewhat turgid performance in its early iterations on underpowered hardware – its demise and Rubinstein's increasing isolation have been painful to watch.
But today, Rubinstein appears to be feeling no pain. Although he told The Verge during Friday's interview from his vacation in Mexico that it was "too early in the day for a margarita," he was "gonna go for a swim, have a little lunch..."
No details of Rubinstein's severance package have been released, but we're willing to bet that should he so desire, he'll be able to pop for a bottle of Herradura Selección Suprema Extra Anejo for that eventual margarita. ®