Jon Rubinstein, the force behind the WebOS mobile operating system, has quit Hewlett-Packard, where he's worked since the company's acquisition of Palm in 2010. "Jon has fulfilled his commitment to HP. We wish him well," HP said in a statement. Rubinstein joined Palm in 2007 as chairman and became CEO in 2009 after a long stint at Apple, where he was part of the group that developed the iPod. Palm, which had defined the personal digital assistent with its Palm Pilot in the late 1990s, flailed for years through a series of owners, management changes, and strategic shifts.
Palm had hoped Rubinstein could bring some of Apple's magic to it. The result was WebOS and the Palm Pre, an early competitor to Apple's iPhone. WebOS gained fans but few buyers for its distinctive card-based user interface. Palm struggled to follow up the Pre with new models, given lack of carrier interest, and HP bought it in July 2010 for $1.2 billion.
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In February 2011, Rubinstein and other HP Personal Systems Group execs took to the stage to reveal a renewed WebOS effort involving a new tablet, new smartphones, and plans to port WebOS to PCs to ultimately untie HP from its Windows dependence. The first tangible result of that effort was the HP TouchPad, released in June 2011 to poor reviews. Six weeks later, HP killed the TouchPad, the planned WebOS smartphones, and the grand plan to port WebOS to the desktop. Rubinstein was moved to a vague position of product innovation VP within the Personal Systems Group, and in the fall HP's board fired CEO Léo Apotheker, largely for the WebOS debacle and his public revelation of an intent to sell the PC business.
After failing to find a buyer for it, new CEO Meg Whitman later decided to transfer WebOS to the open source community, a project expected to be completed this September. Many observers believe this marks the end of WebOS, and explains Rubinstein's departure.
Rubinstein told the website AllThingsD that he now plans to take some time off and did not disclose any future plans he may have.
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