Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein is leaving HP and he leaves a tantalizing legacy of unfulfilled potential with webOS.
Rubinstein said he’s going to take a “well deserved break” for a while but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up at another major mobile company in the not-too-distant future (Microsoft could use him). Rubinstein came from Apple and tried to remake Palm with webOS but even the nicest 1.0 smartphone platform design in the world couldn’t save Palm and webOS from death. You can read the full story of webOS here.
More than likely, Rubinstein’s earn out or contractual obligations to HP after the Palm acquisition have expired and since HP obviously has no real plan for mobile, this is probably the best move for him. Once a star lower on the totem pole at Apple, Rubinstein struck out on his own to try and reshape the smartphone market with Palm. He never quite achieved that but elements of webOS and the approach that Palm wanted to take were actually pretty darn innovative.
You can say it’s a shame that HP pissed webOS down the drain but Rubinstein also deserves a fair amount of blame. The Pre launch strategy was muddled, it didn’t compare well against the iPhone 3G, the platform never evolved as quickly as it should have and selling to HP turned out to be the worst thing ever for Palm and webOS regardless of how much money it may have made in the short term for Rubinstein and Elevation Partners.
He also deserves a lot of credit though, as he took some home run swings against some really big competition and he connected on some aspects. Rubinstein is a very talented dude and has a nice vision of where the mobile market is going, so I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard from him.