updated 06:10 pm EDT, Mon July 11, 2011
HP puts Rubinstein in PSG, out of webOS lead
HP in the wake of the TouchPad's launch undertook major changes that pointed to a shift in strategy for webOS. Former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein will step out of the role of leading the webOS business division and will instead have a "product innovation role" within the entire Personal Systems Group. The PSG's current Americas head, Stephen DeWitt, is taking his place.
Rubinstein's exact tasks aren't known but will go across multiple product lines and may not necessarily be confined to webOS hardware. He has a history of making "exceptional consumer products," HP said. DeWitt is credited with rescuing the personal group's profit and market share in his three years at the company.
The reason for the swap wasn't given out. Rubinstein is credited by many with saving Palm from an even faster decline by fostering the design of more iconic phones like the Pre and otherwise backing away from its conservative focuses on PalmOS and Windows Mobile. Palm never completely bounced back, however, and the company was in enough trouble that it accepted a buyout from HP last spring. Executive VP Todd Bradley, who Rubinstein will continue to report to, was at one point Palm's CEO.
Rubinstein's move, despite Palm's trouble, may be a sign of confidence in his experience. HP saw a steep drop in home PC sales and has regularly been chastized for a lack of breakthrough computer design. His experience may also be needed as HP cross-pollinates webOS throughout its lineup, including it in dual-booting PCs next year.
The move would return Rubinstein to having control over computer products, an authority he hasn't had since switching his focus to the iPod at Apple several years ago. Rubinstein is credited with a large part of the makeover of Apple's floundering Mac line from 1997 onwards, cutting out huge swaths of product overlap and focusing on then-advanced technology like USB that would come with the iMac. His role may be to reshape HP's computer line and give it a more Apple-like philosophy.