John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Palm Chief: By Birthright, Palm Should Have Owned the Smartphone Market

What Palm chief Jon Rubinstein’s appearance at Web 2.0 Summit today lacked in news, it made up for somewhat in perspective–on the mobile space, Palm’s smartphone birthright, its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard and its future under HP.

“Palm created the PDA (personal digital assistant) space with the Pilot and the smartphone space after it with the Treo,” Rubinstein said this morning, reflecting on the company’s state when he first came to it. “So by birthright, Palm should have owned the smartphone market, but it just lost its way. It’s a very similar story to what happened with Apple.”

Except, of course, Apple never forfeited its independence to another company in the hopes of reclaiming its birthright, or to execute the broader vision of connected devices that arose from it. But in Palm’s case, its acquisition by HP made perfect sense. “We needed more resources,” Rubinstein said. “We could not compete in a fashion that would allow us to be one of the premier companies in the marketplace. And HP needed a strong mobile strategy around which they could innovate–one that would allow them to control their own furture and not rely on the kindness of strangers.”

In other words, to differentiate and succeed in the mobile device space, you need to own a veritically integrated stack strategy–software, hardware and services–like the one Palm is now building out with the help of HP’s not inconsiderable resources. “We’ve actually pulled a couple hundred people out of HP and made them part of Palm,” Rubinstein explained. “We’re using them to broaden our scope and we’re just cranking away. Our view is we’re going to see people with more and more devices in the future and HP is in the middle of all this. So our focus is to deliver a unified experience for that around webOS.”

So what’s Palm got in the pipeline for next year?

“We’ve got some great products in the works,” Rubinstein said. “Some smartphones, a great tablet coming. I think we have several products that will be hits when they come out….Everyone forgets, we just closed this acquisition in July….This time next year, you’ll see us in a very different position.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik