Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Palm CEO Jon "Ruby" Rubinstein Talks About the HP Deal–He's Staying, Will Always Love the Pre Mirror and Still Will Not Be Touching Any iPhones

After an All Things Digital report last week on Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) being the most likely suitor for Palm (PALM)–despite multiple reports of intense interest from HTC and Lenovo from China–CEO Jon Rubinstein jokingly asked how we knew about the deal.

We didn’t! It was a complete guess, Ruby!

Actually it was a very informed one by Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski, but his cogent analysis of the synergies between Palm and HP is pretty much what Rubinstein said drove the action.

“We’ve got great intellectual property with webOS and a great team assembled,” he said, in an interview with BoomTown this afternoon after the $1.2 billion acquisition was announced. “HP is the largest tech company in the world and they are now going to invest in driving it to scale, which we could not do at Palm.”

Getting its innovative webOS mobile operating system software to scale–or, more precisely not being able to at its size–was one of the major issues that Rubinstein pointed to in doing the deal (and, it goes without saying, Palm’s struggles).

“This industry became much more competitive very quickly than we had hoped or could have predicted,” he said, referring to the giant investments in the space by Google (GOOG) with Android, Apple (AAPL) with the iPhone and even Microsoft (MSFT) with its new Windows Phone 7. “We did predict the right marketplace and thought the smartphone market was going to explode, so it was the right direction.”

Now it will be up to HP to drive Web OS, although Rubinstein said he expects most of the team at Palm–including himself–to move over intact.

Rubinstein, who once worked at HP, said more details over who the rivals to nab Palm were will be revealed when regulatory documents are released, although he declined to comment specifically now. Now, it is up to him and HP to sell it to Wall Street.

He said he expected the deal “should not attract significant” government scrutiny, given the high amount of competition in the space.

Which he predicted would be heightened now that HP is backing Palm as its new owner, rather than struggling on its own, as it has been.

“Certainly from a tech point of view, the ability to compete is now profound,” he said. “I think this is a logical and natural match and the synergies are obvious.”

As to missteps, such as its creepy lady advertising and questionable marketing, Rubinstein said no CEO likes to focus on those.

Which is why when I asked him about the silly exchange I had with Silicon Valley VC and Palm backer Roger McNamee about last year’s D: All Things Digital conference about the mirror on the back of the Palm Pre that the “ladies” would love, he joked that—even though McNamee was now out–the overly loquacious Elevation Partners investor would be brought back from time to time to liven things up.

As to Rubinstein’s own controversial quote to me in an onstage interview at a D event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, where the former Apple exec said he had never used an iPhone, he quipped: “I still haven’t touched one.”

In truth, Palm never really did.

Here is that video, as well as highlights of the appearance by Rubinstein and McNamee at last year’s D7:

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

Video clip: Mirror, mirror, on the smartphone…


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