HP has announced in a purely shareholder focused press release that it has moved former Palm CEO and now former Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Palm Global Business Group Jon Rubenstein into a new role with a new title within HP, more specifically a â€œproduct innovation role within the Personal Systems Groupâ€.
In his place, Stephen DeWitt, former Senior Vice President of the Personal Systems Group in the Americas will now assume a leadership role in the newly renamed webOS Global Business Group and will oversee all aspects of webOS from development to marketing.
With the shuffle, HP has essentially demoted Jon Rubenstein upward after a year of the less than stellar success of the current Pre lineup and Veer 4G, while DeWitt will be put in charge of the webOS group in order to make it into a profitable division following his success in making the Americas branch of the Personal Systems Group into a profitable division.
In an interview earlier this year during its HP/Palm Think Beyond media event, Jon Rubenstein admitted that Palm lost an entire product cycle in development time as a consequence of putting itself up for sale and being subsequently purchased by HP. As a result, the Pre 2 ended up as a quiet launch on Verizon Wireless while first generation webOS devices were left to rot after previously being promised updates to webOS 2.0, severely damaging customer perception.
While Palm made a big splash at the Think Beyond event with the Veer 4G, Pre 3 and Touchpad, current consumer demand for the devices spells more trouble for the division as AT&T and third-parties are forced to cut Veer 4G pricing to below cost in order to drive sales, while the Pre 3 has yet to be given a solid release timeframe and the Touchpad is subject to lukewarm reviews due to its software performance and cost.
With the renaming of the Palm Business Group to the webOS Group, HP has also completely subsumed the Palm identity into HP and has eliminated any connection to Palm. As HP makes moves to license the webOS platform to third-parties, that may signal desperation on the part of HP to restore momentum to the platform.
What remains to be seen is how these moves will affect webOS going forward, as Jon Rubenstein was the driving force behind the creation of the webOS platform and hardware design. With these new executive changes, is HP setting up for Jon Rubensteinâ€™s eventual exit from HP, or are they preparing to allow him to do what he does best in engineering products with great potential as evidenced by his greatest success in the iPod? Time will tell, but time is something that HP lacks at the moment, especially with a platform filled with so much potential as webOS being hampered by poor marketing and worst of all, bad timing.