updated 09:55 am EDT, Thu May 27, 2010
HP buyout of Palm costs it webOS UI designer
Palm may have been dealt a significant wound this morning as its key user interface designer Matias Duarte said this morning that he was leaving the company. The Senior Director of Human Interface and User Experience didn't say where he would go next, but sources for AllThingsD said he was leaving to join Google and develop the Android interface. Google hasn't confirmed the new hire.
Duarte is best known as one of the core designers behind webOS and consequently leaves Palm without one of its greatest influences. It may create a significant problem for HP, as it plans to make tablets and other devices using the interface.
It's also a potential advantage for Google, which gets access to a designer familiar with multi-touch and true multitasking as well as integrating social networks and other services into all parts of an operating system. Android 2.2 supports these to limited degrees but might have the benefit of Duarte's experience for later versions.
A Google acquisition could also be a way of steeling the company against Apple, whose iPhone has centered around its UI as a selling point. Until Android 2.0 and beyond, Google had been accused of having a relatively plain, utilitarian interface for Android that lacked the ease and polish of its competitor.
Before Palm, Duarte was responsible for the custom UI that drove phones on the now-defunct US carrier Helio and was responsible for much of the overall design of the Danger Hiptop, which eventually became the Sidekick.