HP's move puts Rubinstein in Rahul Sood's old shoes, an operations guy in charge of webOS | webOS Nation

HP's move puts Rubinstein in Rahul Sood's old shoes, an operations guy in charge of webOS 58

by Derek Kessler Mon, 11 Jul 2011 5:42 pm EDT

HP’s press release this afternoon announcing the appointment of Stephen DeWitt as the new head of the webOS Global Business Unit was worded in a very clear way:

“DeWitt has dramatically improved PSG’s profitability and share position in the America’s region since his arrival to HP in 2008.”

What they’re saying is he’s a sales and operations guy. DeWitt was responsible for driving both increased sales and increased profitability within the HP Personal Systems Group, and that was accomplished by approaching the problem from multiple angles. First and foremost, HP’s personal computer offerings have grown more attractive over the past few years, a move that has undoubtedly enticed many a customer. At the same time, DeWitt drove HP towards better profitability by cutting waste within his division (something former CEO Mark Hurd excelled at).

DeWitt’s new role as the head of the webOS Global Business Unit underscores HP’s commitment to webOS and belief in the platform’s potential. Placing the guy who drove your computer division to great profit in charge of a division that put out its first big product in over a year (the HP Veer doesn’t count, no matter how much we love it) and is starting practically at zero in market share? That’s a vote of confidence.

Apart from just leading product and software development within the WGBU (WOSGBU? webOS GBU?), DeWitt will also be overseeing research and development, marketing, and channel support. HP’s also tasked him with “the creation of a fully integrated, global developer and independent software vendor program to deliver new consumer and business applications.” What that means beyond where the App Catalog is already headed, we’re not entirely sure. The webOS App Catalog has hit “global” with webOS 3.0, though we suppose there’s still some room for improvement in that area. What remains to be seen is whether or not DeWitt and VP of Developer Relations Richard Kerris will be able to bring on the developers needed to make those apps.

DeWitt’s statement in the press release seems to indicate that he understands the apps need: “As part of our investment in the future of webOS, we are working in lock step with the developer community, our channel partners and the start-up community to create an application ecosystem that delivers on HP’s mobile connectivity strategy.” Any webOS developer will tell you that the people in webOS developer relations are great people, but the tools, resources, and support needed sometimes are lacking. Both DeWitt and Kerris are going to have to continue to listen to the developer community, both large and small, to deliver what they need to make the apps the platform needs.

Jon Rubinstein, on the other hand, almost seems to have received a demotion. He’s retained his Senior Vice President status, but has been removed from the General Manager position of the webOS Global Business Unit (apparently taking the Palm name with him) and appointed as the Personal Systems Group’s new SVP of Product Innovation. What exactly that means is pretty unclear, though we might have already seen that role in action before today. Remember Rahul Sood? Yeah, the guy who built VoodooPC, sold to HP, became their CTO of Global Gaming and floated around HP heading up their Innovation Program Office making cool things happen across the company.

Rubinstein’s new role puts him in a position where’s he’s proven successful: making cool things happen. Rubinstein was the guy who drove development of the iPod at Apple and was brought on board at Palm to drive development of the Pre and webOS. Where things went south was when he was placed in charge of Palm as Chairman and CEO. Rubinstein’s an engineer, he always has been. While putting him in charge of Palm may have seemed like a good idea at the time, we know now he’s not a marketing, sales, carrier relationships, or developers guy, though we like to believe he did try his hardest in those and every other area. The new SVP of Product Innovation role for Rubinstein puts him back in his element: making cool things happen across the board and not worrying about things like profitability or marketing.

The new positions for DeWitt and Rubinstein look like they’ll serve both men, HP, and webOS well. Rubinstein gets to do more tinkering and making cool things happen and HP gets to take advantage of his extreme engineering talent and product vision, while DeWitt gets to lead the charge on taking webOS to the next level and the webOS Global Business Unit gets a guy that knows how to make sales and profits happen. HP’s betting big on webOS and this leadership shuffle is just one of the many ways they’re getting all of their cards in the right place.


Oh well, Lets see how that goes.

Sometimes management is brain dead. Ask any precentral member worth his salt, they have a solution. Release three more devices one of which is a 4 inch all touchscreen phone. Everything gets fixed.

I have no doubt Ruby is smart as a tack but he is NOT a salesman, which is what you have to have up front. Rubes has all the charisma of wet cardboard and his smugness made it worse. He wrote checks with his mouth and attitude that he couldn't cash with his performance. Every time he opened his mouth I just wanted to hit him.

Is he to blame for the STILL slow trickle of products? Is he to blame for the relationship fiasco between HP and Sprint? Who knows. What's certain is he gave investors ZERO confidence every time he took the stage and every time he did an interview.

I say good riddance. Anyone is better than him.

I was about to type almost exactly this. Good show!

Perhaps Stephen can get through to Sprint. In reality, why the **** *would* Sprint get another "Pre" from Ruby?!? If I was Dan Hesse, I probably wouldn't have either.


...this article needs a good photoshop. That being said well done and better than anything on any other site right now. Wish JT would have done the post instead of Nilay at TIMN.

About time.

That last point seems particularly relevant... I can't help but wonder where HP and webOS would be now if this move had happened around the time of the original Palm acquisition.

Here's hoping good things will come of this.

+1 This should have happened when HP took over. It's a bit late now the horse has bolted.

Good luck to Ruby but I doubt he'll stick around HP for too long - does it really strike you as a cool and innovative place..really?

I just hope they let the ex-Palm guys get on with taking webOS where it needs to go..

Ruby will soon leave HP and just be a memory. While the Pre 3 will be looking at a WebOS gravestone.

If Palm had only survived...

Palm dug their own grave then HP bought them a mausoleum.

This is all interesting but what I want to see is the update for the Touchpad that lets me actually use the Kindle App. I would also like to see the relationship with Sprint fixed. I'm not leaving Sprint any time soon with Verizon and ATT charging out the behind for data usage. So I'm forced to finally replace my aging Pre with an Android phone! Talk about going backwards! I would also like to see Upnp support, a better video player, and Netflix for the Touchpad. The brightside is that the web browser kicks butt! So much so that I have been able to take care of my video fetish using one of the thousands of flash video sites. Crackle rules!

HP put out a good product with the Touchpad. It will be a great product once all of the little bugs are fixed. I hope these changes mean that HP will put a lot of effort into making sure that webOS succeeds. The Touchpad may be behind on sales, but it is a better product than what is on the market now (to include the venerable iPad). HP needs to push things forward on this quickly and build on what I see is a very solid foundation.

Question: Why couldn't you buy a brand-spanking new Android phone, sell it on Ebay, and pick up a brand-spanking new CDMA Pre3 for the same price? Sprint has no problems letting you use an unlocked phone on its network. You can still sign up for a new 2-year contract, you can still get the deal on the new Android phone...and then just swap it on Ebay for a Pre3.

Why don't all Sprint Pre users do this?

Anyone else feel like the touchpad was rock bottom? I hate cnet, but the playbook just took down the touchpad in a prize fight. Sadness is all I feel. Time to go learn how to take 3d pictures.

He is @swdathp on twitter. Let him know we want a Sprint webOS phone ;-)

I think this shows HP is committed to making WedOS a success. Through the acquisition of Palm, they wanted to try and keep that mgmt. chain in charge as to minimize the disruption. This also tells me that the TouchPad is just beginning and we'll probably see some drastic improvements in this device and other mobile devices. I look forward to what comes in the next 12 - 18 months, because if things don't improve much before then; many of us just purchased a soon to be collectors item or expensive piece of plastic.

On the flip side, the timing of this is real bad as it shows everyone that HP management is not sold on the week old touchpad. This could really impact sales of the device in the short term. Just check out the zdnet article posted on this:


Article was a little weak, but I agree. This move has had to of been in the works for a while now. Lets just hope it does not slow things down to much.

This is good and bad for webos:

Good: They now have a guy who knows how to make something profitable in charge.

BAD: Rubenstien's now in charge of new products. Given that under his charge the newest products they came up with were the Veer, Pre 3 and TouchPad, that's not a good track record for him to lead them to amazing new, relevant products for webos, is it?

Rubinstein is not "in charge" of new products. He's in charge of "making cool **** happen." Selling and building it is somebody else's job.

In charge of making cool stuff happen... which means?

Dress down Friday? Regular happy hours?

Hopefully that's all the responsibility he's been given. Keep him away from webOS (directly - let the guy keep his Veer; he did bring us webOS afterall), and things may actually fall into place.

Notice this happens just one week (essentially) after the one year take-over anniversary? Interesting stuff...


Great comment! More great that you guys get asterixed out too! LOL!

A good move so Ruby doesn't have to deal with the day to day operations which he may have not wanted anyway. Ruby wasn't an operations guy. Much better that he can come up with new concepts for webOS. Rahul seemed enthusiastic but seemed to enjoy creating luxury products that didn't have genuine innovation. Making something faster, and in fancy materials isn't enough. Hope Ruby can come up with some new ideas.

Sounds like a shelf position to me.

Derek, great analysis!
I think you meant to put Dewitt in your title as operations guy in charge of webos and not Rubinstein?

I think you read it wrong. Guy a in guy z's old shoes, an guy b in charge of webOS.

and still cant comment from my pre-. i think im gonna have to go to the other sites that know how make their mobile sites work right.......

...or learn to logoff from your pc before trying to do a full logon to the mobile site.

Something PC should better address though. If you select "stay logged on for two weeks", it holds the token on that machine, even if you power down.

for a second there i was hoping you knew what you were talking about.... but you dont...... :(

Must have worked, you came back despite your warning. Learn to set up your phone or logoff the pc, so we don't lose your valued attendance.

Rubestein is a brilliant creator, but that doesn't make him a brilliant leader! Ruby can't make deadlines. Put someone in charge that can

that means he will plug in the refridgerator/freezer cord.....

In one way I think JR was named captian of the Titanic after the lookout saw the iceberg but before actually hitting it. He had an impossible job, to turn around a comapny, introduce new hardware/software and do it without any real marketing. It may have been mostly smoke and mirrors, but I don't think we'd have a Touchpad without him. Dispite the missteps, which are only visible to us in hindsight, I say Rubi did alright.

I wish him well.

p.s. I'm also not the least bit surprised by his 'transition' to a new role. It's the rare merger where it doesn't happen after a year or so.

did alright? everything that has released ever since the pre has been a failure.....

Thanks for the proper perspective, Derek. The other articles/blogs I've read about this are making it more than it is. It's a win-win-win, win for DeWitt, win for Ruby & win for webOS fans because the best guy to push webOS globally is now in place. And the best guy to innovate within HP is now in place.

A win for Ruby in that when you have been promoted above your capacity someone takes mercy on you and demotes you instead of firing you outright. It's probably just a part of the contract between Palm and HP that Ruby negotiated, that Ruby could stay on as GM for at least one year and retain the SVP post for another period.

Agreed: cogent and insightful analysis, Derek. Well done. {Jonathan}

The king is dead. Long live the king!

I thought Rubinstein already had Rahul Sood's job: making outrageous statements on what was coming down the pike and when that turn out never to be the case.

They should've put him in the cafeteria where he could sling meat loaf & mashed potatoes to employees.

I almost wish they had fired him for all the daily anxiety he's put a lot of people thru including me with his vague timelines that last months. Gosh I hate that guy.

I agree management is sometimes brain dead. I left a company about 8 years before it went under because of it (can anyone say CompUSA). It had become a company that promoted anyone that told upper management exactly what they wanted to hear even if what they wanted to hear was completely ridiculous.

It just all seems so obvious. If this original TouchPad was the best they could do for whatever reasons, fine. But putting it out into the market place at the same price point as the iPad 2 just makes no sense. None. No excuses.

If you want to take the market by storm- give consumers what they want. They want a device that is cool, slick, fast and well, coveted by your friends. We all know WebOS is an excellent UI. So What. That isn't the be all and the end all. I would have to agree with all of the major reviews of the Touchpad. No one said it was a horrid device. They just were underwhelmed. You can't put out a Chevy, price it like a Lexus (you don't like my choice of cars pick your own...you get the idea) and expect anything less than a lukewarm reception. Functional, yes. Fabulous, no.

Really HP is this so hard to conceptualize? I get not wanting to cheapen your brand, but you made that choice with your hardware and lack of "optimization"-your word. Pricing it the same as the leader in your target market is not going to "buy" into higher class. It will only get it labeled as a pretender. Just like in real life. Oh wait, HP, you are operating in real life. Wow, my point is now a double point.

Saying that the device gets faster with use, and that reviewers were dealing with it downloading and updating it doesn't explain why it just seems slower when you use the display models out on the retail floor. And if this really were true, then shame on you for not making that a HUGE issue with the units you sent out for review, PRIOR to reviewers using them. What, you didn't do any product focus groups?

As I opened this post with, I worked for a company full of "yes" men. At my exit interview they wanted to know why I was leaving and what they could do to keep me. I told them there was nothing they could do to keep me as the only way the culture of the company would ever change was to fire the top 3 executives of the company and I realized that was not going to happen, so I had to move on.

Maybe HP is aware that someone has been feeding them bad advice. Maybe today's shakeup is a sign of that. My only advice would be to listen very carefully to free spirited, positive minded, driven employees who tried to tell you prior to the Touchpad's launch that you were making a mistake. THEY are your most valuable resource.

Companies that learn to value some of their own employees that are critics can become Simply Amazing. Those that don't become Simply Underwhelming.

My 53.2 cents worth. Worth less with the Global Economic Meltdown and impending inflation..... lol

This move does show me that Leo is a bottom line, results oriented CEO. Lets face it, the TP launch is turning out to be a flop mainly because it is a inferior/lousy product and someone had to take the fall. I wonder how many touchpads they did sell. If this is the best that HP can do after seeing other products out there in market place then they should take "invent" off of their logo. My gosh, being late to the market was an advantage. Just cherry pick the best features from other tablets, incorporate into the best features of webOS and build a QUALITY product. Quality sells. The product must have a quality feel, quality hardware, and a quality OS. The OS can not lag. Repeat, the OS can not lag.

Ruby called us once Palm faithful legacy customers.

1) Poor Pre2 roll out
2) Poor Veer roll out
3) Pool Touchpad roll out
4) No Pre3 on Sprint
5) Ruby demoted...

guess who's legacy now?

Rubinstein is done. No other way to see it. When someone bumps you from a GM job running a GBU to a random SVP job running "innovation" just after you shipped a product that hurt the company's brand because of supbar hardware and late software, it's just an easing off place before you quietly pick up for your next gig.

It is quite possible that the inability to articulate a vision and engender consumer excitement about the webOS platform at a personal level might be one of the failings of Palm.

So, in a sense it is refreshing to see an executive that clearly has this ability along with the apparent passion and charisma take reins of the HP webOS platform.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9r8QjP7Ymc&feature=youtu.be for impressions.

I hope he stops calling it "the webOS". Thst's just irritating...

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "Oh well"?? He is the guy that made Palm FAIL. Media and the likes never look at this as such: failing hard and being punished. I "feel" bad for him. "Feel". Who cares about anything in that arena, I have said from day one, take this CEO out to pasture. They've done that. He can't run palm like Apple, they aren't the same. palm is a hard core hardware and software dynamic that just isn't matched by anyone, but has never really able to make money. Hopefully this guy can. All the best luck to take over and RULE the world, GO palm,go WEBos, go team!
PS. Where is pre3? ohh..... 7 months and COUNTING. Blow... ME....

I know hp says this is a marathon and not sprint, but I think they have few months, before holiday season, to get this right! More useful apps (not the number game) and a good hardware.

If you trip and fall down at the start of a marathon, it's not a good thing. The race may be long but you're on the ground looking down at the pavement. Not good.

yup, that is why they are changing the runner!

Dear Mr. Dewitt,
If I may suggest 3 things to focus on:

1) Smartphones. I understand tablets/pads are all the rage now, but I think more people would be apt to buy a tablet because they want to scale up their smartphone experience, not vice-versa.

2) Communication. Talk to your customers and don't treat them like idiots. Release dates not seasons. If there is a delay, for whatever reason, be upfront with your customers instead of letting the rumor mill take over.

3) Do not copy anything from any of the previous webos product launches from the original Pre to the touchpad.


And pls from here on out, DROP THE "PRE" NAME from YOUR FUTURE SMARTPHONES. It's such a LAME name. PRE MEANS "predecessor" or "prehistoric". I mean who came up with that name anyway for a phone?


Palm Pre-mature.

So, does this mean we reset the clock again as far as what we should expect of webOS.?

"DeWitt has only been at the helm for a few [days/weeks/months]. This [hardware/software/marketing] is what Ruby had in place so it doesn't count. Look where Apple was when Steve Jobs came back and see where they are now."


Now let's retcon this into DeWitt being responsible for the iPhone launch so we can use it as proof that WebOS will become number 1 plus.

Ruby will be gone within a year, leaving for "different opprotunities" at another company.

They kicked Jon out, while still giving him a fat paycheck to soften the blow. VP of Innovation? We all know what happened to the last person who held that position. It's a BS position that they give to former CEOs of companies that HP acquired.

The Dewitt youtube video showing him talk about webOS is hilarious. It sounds like a ramble more than anything else. Couldn't they just prepare something for the guy?

The problem at Palm was not the lack of ideas, but the horrible execution. So they need a guy like Dewitt. A guy with no originality whatsoever, but the track record to make things work.

I don't know what this means long term for webOS, but medium term, many good things could come out of this. I am still open to buying a 4" webOS slab if they ever make one. I'd better have the best specs on the market though. (Like, they'll be using 720p screens by the time things are in order at the webOS division.)

Oh, and Palm officially no longer exists as of yesterday. Like we didn't see it coming...

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