Being the CEO of a multi-million dollar company has to be a tough gig. You have shareholders to answer to, you are responsible the livelihood of thousands of employees and everything you say is analyzed to death for a possible hidden meaning behind the words that might hint to the overall health of the company. Yes, it must be a tough job, but sometimes when you do analyze what they say, you kind of have to wonder why they haven’t been replaced yet.
Jon Rubinstein, the CEO of Palm is just one such man.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past Jan., Mr. Rubinstein was interviewed by Kara Swisher of All Things D in a public forum. During one portion of the conversation, the Palm CEO made a rather odd admission:
Rubinstein: “We don’t pay that much attention to Apple … I know it sounds really strange”
Swisher: “Really? You don’t worry about the iPhone?”
Rubinstein: “No, I really don’t”
Swisher: “I don’t believe you”
Rubinstein: “I don’t have an iPhone. I’ve never even used one.”
Okay, what? Before coming to Palm, this gentleman was the head of Apple’s iPod division through March 31st, 2006. Seeing as the iPhone is also viewed as an iPod, we are to believe a mere year before the official announcement of Apple’s biggest product launch he had never played with the prototypes? His retirement from the company was announced in Oct. 2005, so maybe they kept it away from him?
Fine, lets say he hadn’t played with one, as someone trying to get a foothold in the smartphone market, wouldn’t you feel obligated to be at least passingly familiar with all of your main competitors? Wouldn’t you want to take a look at their devices and see where you feel they didn’t quite get the experience they were trying for and you could slide into that space? It only makes business sense for him to have tried an iPhone, yet he claims he hasn’t. Possible? Yes. Sensible? Not even close.
Flash forward to this week, and during an earnings call for Palm’s financial third-quarter, Mr. Rubinstein made another head scratching comment that really had to make you wonder about his sensibilities:
If we could have launched at Verizon prior to the Droid, I think we would have gotten the attention the Droid got. And since I believe we have a better product, I think we could have even done better.
So it is Mr. Rubinstein’s belief is that a lot of a phone’s success is based around release dates? That you could have dropped any other smartphone into the Motorola Droid’s release window at Verizon and it would have had the same success? That makes absolutely no sense, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t.
We have written before about how Palm has a lot of problems it needs to fix, and even Engadget has now done a similar post about the multitude of things wrong right now at the company. It’s beginning to look like Palm’s biggest problem has a name, and that is Jon Rubinstein. At the end of the day, the CEO is responsible for signing off on every thing, and yes, I imagine we can even blame him for those horribly creepy ads the company ran for the launch of the Pre.
It isn’t just the tech bloggers that are now turning on Palm either. In the wake of the third quarter earnings, the stock plummeted, and two analysts even officially valued the stock at $0. Palm is pretty much toast at this point unless it does something drastic.
I am never one to be happy to see someone lose their job, but if ever there was a candidate for someone needing to be let go to save a company, I would have to say we have found our poster child.