Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein has reportedly resigned from Hewlett-Packard, according to a report from AllThingsD. Although the move is not entirely unexpected, it still makes a forlorn footnote for the legacy of the once-mighty Palm, which helped pioneer the PDA and smartphone markets, placed a daring bet on an Internet-centric mobile operating system with webOS. According to the report, Rubinstein has no immediate plans, and his departure from HP coincides withe expiration of his agreement to stay with HP in the wake of its $1.2 billion acquisition back in 2010.
Leading Palm, Rubinstein was a visible and outspoken executive; however, in recent month Rubinstein had been nearly invisible and silent since being replaced as the head of HP’s webOS efforts by the head of HP’s Personal Systems group in July 2011. Former HP CEO Leo Apotheker pulled the plug on HP’s webOS business roughly one month later. Rubinstein’s re-assignment to a poorly-defined “product innovation” role was widely seen as a precursor to his departure from HP.
Rubinstein made his name at Apple as the man responsible for much of the engineering design of Apple’s original iPod music players. Rubinstein left Apple in 2006 for private equity firm Elevation Partners, and stepped into the CEO role at Palm as the company struggled to escape its legacy PalmOS and develop a new Internet-centered mobile operating system. That system would eventually become webOS, and although Palm’s smartphone struggled to find buyers as Apple’s iPhone ignited the smartphone industry, the technology attracted the attention of HP, which was interested in not just the operating system—originally for phones, tablets, printers, and a wide range of other devices—but for the patents behind it. With webOS, HP would have its own mobile operating system unencumbered by license restrictions and the development timetables of a third party like Google or Microsoft.
Since killing off its webOS product lines, HP vowed to make webOS open source so independent developers could leverage the platform. HP revealed this week that it doesn’t expect to make webOS open source until September, 2012, although individual elements of webOS will be released under the Apache license sooner.