John Paczkowski

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Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein: I’ve Never Used an iPhone

Jon Rubinstein

If CES 2009 marked Palm’s rise-from-the-ashes rebirth, CES 2010 may well be the beginning of its resurgence, the inflection point at which the company really begins to gain traction in a market that nearly left it behind just two years ago.

“I think we’ve done really well this past year,” Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein said during an interview with All Things Digital‘s Kara Swisher at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Video clip: Highlights from Jon Rubinstein’s interview.

“We told everyone what our plans were and we really executed on those,” he continued, adding, “we said we’d deliver the Pre in the first half and launched it in June. We said we’d add more carriers and we did that as well….Throughout the year we’ve delivered a lot of over-the-air updates, improving the product, and then we launched the Pixi….I look at the last two years as a transitional period and the year ahead as a transformational one.”

And what of the year ahead? Further improvements, says Rubinstein: “We’re really, really focused on the consumer experience–the simple user interface, multitasking, synergy, seamless messaging applications…the gesture-based interface; these are all things that make our products stronger.”

The conversation shifts to the mobile space and the competition in it. How does Palm (PALM) view Apple (AAPL)?

Jon Rubinstein holds up the new Palm Pixi Plus.

“We don’t pay that much attention to Apple….I know it sounds really strange,” says Rubinstein.

“Really?” Kara replies. “You don’t worry about the iPhone?”

“No, I really don’t,” Rubinstein answers.

“I don’t believe you,” says Kara, telegraphing a sentiment I imagine is widely held among the audience. Rubinstein is sometimes referred to as “the father of the iPod.” Hard to imagine he doesn’t have at least a passing interest in the evolution of the device he helped create.

Rubinstein: “I don’t have an iPhone. Actually, I’ve never used one.”

Video clip: Jon Rubinstein says he’s never used an iPhone.

I think I just heard Palm’s entire PR team groan. If only Kara had an iPhone in her pocket that she could offer Rubinstein–“Come on, touch it.” No such luck, though. Too bad Rep. Joe Wilson’s not in the audience …

Dead end, here. I think.

Kara circles back to the Apple issue, recalling the iTunes synch feature Palm debuted at the All Things D conference last year. At the time, Rubinstein claimed Apple wouldn’t care. But Apple clearly did care. “We don’t think what Apple did is good for their customers,” says Rubinstein. “But Apple’s going to do what Apple’s going to do.”

So why not do your own synching app? Rubinstein says he’d prefer that the developer community create apps like this. Has Palm approached Apple about creating a joint solution? “I don’t really see the point,” he replies.

The conversation shifts to webOS and the developer community. Rubinstein says Palm sees strong interest in its development platform. “I think we have a very large potential developer pool for the product.”

Jon Rubinstein answers a question

Kara asks about the deal the company announced with Verizon (VZ) yesterday here in Las Vegas. How important is the deal to Palm? “We have high hopes for our partners,” Rubinstein says after a moment. “And we’re investing along with them.”

“What about that deal with AT&T?” Kara asks, noting that the carrier essentially announced it earlier this week

Rubinstein dodges: “We have nothing to announce at this time.”

Kara asks if Palm would like to do a deal with AT&T (T).

“More distribution is better,” says Rubinstein.

“Well, you might want to talk to AT&T, then,” quips Kara. “Sounds like they’re interested.”

One last question from Kara: Will Palm do a tablet?

“We’re a small company,” says Rubinstein. “But we designed webOS to scale and it could be used in different form factors.”

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