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Palm's CEO To Step Down

Former Apple hardware chief Jon Rubinstein will take the helm from Ed Colligan, who has held the top position at Palm for 16 years.
Ed Colligan is stepping down as CEO of Palm and will be replaced by executive chairman Jon Rubinstein starting June 12, the company announced Wednesday.

Colligan has held the top position at Palm for 16 years and saw the company through good and bad times. Under his leadership, Palm became the clear market leader in handheld computing devices, and it's credited with kicking off mass-market adoption of smartphones.

But the company's Treo smartphones quickly became outpaced by the likes of Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry. While the company's Centro smartphone sold more than 2 million units, it was not a high-margin device, and Palm has reported seven consecutive quarterly losses.

The company recently launched the Palm Pre smartphone, and it's pinning its comeback hopes on that device and its operating system, webOS. The Pre and webOS have received generally positive reviews, and Sprint said the Pre broke sales records, although it did not disclose how many units were sold. Palm plans to have multiple smartphones powered by webOS in distribution by various carriers.

"I am very excited about taking on this expanded role at Palm," Rubinstein said in a statement. "Ed and I have worked very hard together the past two years, and I'm grateful to him for everything he's done to help set the company up for success. With Palm webOS, we have 10-plus years of innovation ahead of us, and the Palm Pre is already one of the year's hottest new products."

Rubinstein "was instrumental in conceiving the iPod, ... led the rapid rollout of the iMac," and rose to "head of the iPod Division" during his Apple career, according to Palm's Web site.

Colligan likely won't stray too far from Palm, as he's expected to take some time off and then join Elevation Partners. The private equity firm has invested hundreds of millions in Palm over the last few years.

Most companies are just starting the hard work of mobilizing workforces by bringing the software they use to smartphones. InformationWeek analyzed this issue in an independent report, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).