Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Jon Rubinstein Joins Board of Qualcomm, as Mobile Chipmaker Ups Its Silicon Valley Cred


According to sources close to the situation, well-known tech exec Jon Rubinstein will be joining the board of Qualcomm, the San Diego-based chipmaker that has gotten a big boost of late for its role in the explosion of mobile devices.

Rubinstein is an interesting and logical choice for Qualcomm, having been a high-profile player for a long time in the mobile space, beginning with his work on the iPod while at Apple. After he left his last job at Hewlett-Packard last year, though, he has been very low-key.

(Update: Qualcomm confirmed the appointment in a press release.)

For Qualcomm, the selection of Rubinstein to join the board is something to watch, as he is the second exec from Silicon Valley to be tapped by the company recently. In March, Qualcomm hired tech investor Laurie Yoler as SVP of business development, making her “responsible for augmenting existing business relationships in Silicon Valley, as well as developing new strategic business opportunities for Qualcomm in the region.”

Rubinstein has even more experience here and is also familiar with a range of mobile efforts over the years, some of which were successful and others not so much, from his work at Apple, Palm and then HP. He is also a board member of Amazon.

Aside from CEO and Chairman Paul Jacobs, Rubinstein — who has degrees in electrical engineering and computer science — will be the most technically experienced director on the 11-person board.

Qualcomm declined to comment.

Here’s a nice primer on Rubinstein by Arik Hesseldahl, in a report on his leaving HP early last year:

Best known for his work on Apple’s iconic iPod music player, Rubinstein left Apple in 2006 and joined Roger McNamee as a partner in the private equity firm Elevation Partners, following its 2007 investments in Palm.

In 2009 he replaced longtime Palm executive Ed Colligan as its CEO, and oversaw a dramatic restructuring of the company’s products, including a significant rebuild of its smartphone operating system. Gone was the legacy PalmOS that had been used in so many popular devices like the Treo that for a time competed seriously against Research In Motion’s BlackBerry.

PalmOS was replaced by WebOS, which first appeared on the Pre smartphone, then later on the Pixi and Veer devices. After HP acquired Palm, WebOS was also used on the abandoned TouchPad tablet, and is now an open-source operating system overseen by HP.

Rubinstein’s departure is no big surprise. Sources said he hadn’t been seen at HP’s offices following the decision by former CEO Léo Apotheker to get out of the business of making WebOS-based hardware. His future plans have been the subject of speculation for some time.

After HP decided to exit the WebOS hardware business, Rubinstein was assigned to a vaguely described “product innovation role” within HP’s Personal Systems Group during a management shakeup last July. It was an unusual move and one made with little explanation at the time. But sources say it was a preface to Rubinstein’s departure, one intended to lessen its PR impact when he finally left. “That ‘innovation’ gig he was given in July was his first step toward the exit,” said one source, a former Palm exec with close ties to Rubinstein.

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