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Ex-Palm boss slams disastrous effects of $1.2B sale to HP

Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein has opened up about the disastrous sale of Palm to Hewlett-Packard, calling it a "waste" and saying that if he could do it all over again, he wouldn't.

Since acquiring Palm for $1.2 billion (£766 million) in 2010, HP killed sales and support for webOS-based product lines, purged former Palm employees from the payroll, open-sourced Palm's mobile operating system, and finally spun off webOS as a new company called Gram last August.

Rubinstein, speaking with Fierce Wireless, said that before the sale of his company, Palm was working on deals with Verizon and Vodafone to sell webOS-based smartphones, but those deals fell through, putting Palm in an extremely difficult position in the market with only Sprint as a carrier.

"The Sprint deal was the best deal we could get at the time. Palm was dying when I got there. It wasn't like we had the pick of the litter. Everybody forgets that Palm was pretty much dead when we did the recapitalization. It had no future at the time," he told Fierce Wireless.

But even with Palm in dire straits, Rubinstein said HP's £766 million acquisition of the company and subsequent shuttering of its webOS product portfolio and future product roadmap was something he regretted.

"I'm not sure I would have sold the company to HP. That's for sure. Talk about a waste," he said. "Not that I had any choice because when you sell a company you don't get to decide that. Obviously, the board and shareholders decide that. If we had known they were just going to shut it down and never really give it a chance to flourish, what would have been the point of selling the company? I think the deal we had with Verizon really hurt us, but who knew that at the time? These things are all hindsight."

Rubinstein, a former Apple executive, also pointed out some common elements shared by webOS and Apple's upcoming upgrades to both its iOS and Mac OS X platforms, arguing that Apple and other OS makers appear to have liberally borrowed "multitasking, notifications, Synergy, how we handled the multiple cards" from Palm's mobile operating system.

The former Palm CEO, now on the board of directors at Amazon and Qualcomm, also took credit for taking an early lead in pressuring carriers to drop "specific goofy services and stuff" they once insisted on being built into new phones, like customised address books and branded video and messaging services.

"I think we were also very prophetic about the growth of the smartphone market," he said.