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Palm CEO says its smartphone lead a wasted 'birthright'

updated 06:20 pm EST, Tue November 16, 2010

Palm's Rubinstein explains loss of phone edge

Palm leader and now HP executive Jon Rubinstein today told those at the Web 2.0 Summit that his company should have led the smartphone market. The company was one of the very earliest in the category, having established PDAs with the Palm Pilot and getting into smartphones early with the Treo, but squandered its lead and let others catch up. He likened his position from 2007 to the situation Steve Jobs faced at Apple in 1996 and 1997, when the goal was primarily to fix years of mistakes.

"By birthright, Palm should have owned the smartphone market, but it just lost its way," he said. "It's a very similar story to what happened with Apple."

Much of the company's history in the 2000s involved only minor, incremental updates to both its Treo smartphones and to PalmOS, which it eventually sold off to Access. The company tried modernizing by jumping to Windows Mobile but was quickly defeated as the iPhone and other platforms quickly took share from Microsoft. Rubinstein's appearance saw him both drop some established employees but also launch a mass hiring spree; many of the new employees were former Apple workers and in some cases had worked on the iPhone.

On the future, Rubinstein wouldn't detail the lineup but alluded to the PalmPad as well as "some smartphones" enroute. He warned those who criticized the current state of Palm that HP had only closed its buyout of Palm in July. The company and its lineup would be in a "very different position" next year, the executive said.

by MacNN Staff



  1. prl99

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Jon can say what he wants to but Palm would never have come up with the ecosystem Apple brought to the iPhone/iPad. Palm just doesn't have anything more than the simple Pilot that depended on other computers to run any kind of interface to it. Apple came with everything, including the store, and it worked.

  1. davedawgnyc

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I knew Steve Jobs...

    You, sir, are no Steve Jobs.

  1. chas_m



    I root for Palm

    I have a soft spot for this company and hope Jon can turn it around. They made some great products in their day and there's no reason they can't do so again if they can move MUCH faster than they presently do.

    I know everyone's ga-ga about Android, but while it's a very worthy competitor, it suffers from a lack of vision -- from what I've seen, it seems Windows Phone 7 is already "on par" with it on its first release, and both follow the iPad.

    There's definitely an opportunity there for Palm to make a comeback if they can take advantage of it.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Isn't Palm out of business?

    Nothing can defeat Android but itself. It is a totally free OS and it's continually updated and vendors and carriers can do anything they want with it. What company that doesn't have its own OS or consumer that wants an inexpensive smartphone with a lot of features is going to refuse using Android. It has an advantage over the whole smartphone industry so the only thing I see harming Android is its own fragmentation problems and I don't see Google putting a stop to that. It's just going to take time for the fragmentation to reach critical mass and then it may self-destruct on its own. Either that or Google decides to start charging for it.

    HP will likely decide to use WebOS for its own products and at least HP has the clout to do a decent job. But it's not going to be easy with the smartphone market already awash in mobile OSes. Fortunately there's still a lot of growth for upstarts to get into the race if the product is good enough.

  1. Tofino

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Woulda Coulda Shoulda

    Considering Palm started out as a Newton developer, I think that 'birthright' is right were it belongs. But in some way history did repeat itself: Palm rode Apple's coat tails to a short lived success with the Pre, just like they did with the Palm Pilot after the Newton got steved. Let's also not forget that it wasn't the Palm mothership that combined the Palm OS with a cell phone. It was one of their licensees. Maybe Palm's birthright is their myopia?

  1. mdporter

    Joined: Dec 1969


    fat chance

    Rubenstein and friends already failed with the Pre and the smaller one. Quality issues, bad marketing, etc. With iPhone and Android dominating, who is going to write apps for Palm world? Right now they have nothing.

  1. Ixion

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Where's the Palm Foleo?

    Palm was way ahead of its time in 2007 when they announced the Palm Foleo, but subsequently canned the project. There were so many critics at the time who thought very little about the idea of a notebook computer whose primary purpose was email, calendars and light web browsing. Now the market is flooded with these notebooks dubbed Netbooks after all.

    I'm a Palm Pre owner on Sprint, and I absolutely adore the WebOS. iPhones are very cool too, but I have no patience for AT&T. If only it could come to Sprint...

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Really? How much lead did Palm use in it's devices?

  1. hippopotamus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Palm Pre 2 is the best

    Palm Pre 2 is the best smartphone today

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