Palm Chief promises “hits” for HP

November 16, 2010


Six months after Hewlett-Packard announced it was buying smartphone pionners Palm  for $1 billion, technology watchers are still waiting to see just what emerges from the high-profile marriage.

Palm chief Jon Rubinstein still isn’t tipping his hand on any details around smartphones and tablets that are due next year from the new HP unit. But he certainly made no effort to manage expectations on Tuesday at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

“It’s absolutely a hits business…We have several products that will clearly be hits when they come out,” said Rubinstein, who predicted “tremendous growth” in devices based on webOS, the Palm platform that HP acquired when it bought the company this year for roughly $1 billion.

“At the same time next year you’ll see us be in a very different position,” he said, saying there is still plenty of room in the fast-growing market for mobile connected devices

Rubinstein is of course famous as the man who developed Apple’s first iPod. But he started his career some 30 years ago, right out of college, at HP. Rubinstein acknowledged that by landing at Palm after leaving Apple, he is definitely off Steve Jobs’ Christmas list.

He also laid claim to Palm’s heritage in the smartphone space, which he said the company essentially helped create  — with the Treo and other devices — before the iPhone.

“By birthright I guess, Palm should’ve been very very successful in the smartphone space, and it lost its way. It a very similar story to what happened at Apple.”

He said Palm simply did not have the resources to really make it as an independent company: “We needed more resources …. We could not compete in a fashion that would allow us to be one the premiere players in the marketplace, and that’s what we really wanted.”

But in a sign of the enormous trust — and responsibility — heaped upon Rubinstein, HP has generally left Palm alone to do its thing since the acquisition.

“HP, and Todd (Bradley, HP’s PC division chief)  in particular, have been very sensitive to keeping us separate enough that we deliver what we need to go and deliver,” he said.

Asked whether the tabloid headlines and turmoil surrounding the August departure of HP CEO Mark Hurd has impacted the company, Rubinstein said no.

“I’d say it was a surprise, as it was I’m sure to everybody, and clearly it caused a day or two of buzz in the hallways… but it doesn’t really impact us that much.”

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