FierceWireless had an interesting interview this week with Jon Rubinstein, the visionary CEO who almost brought Palm back from the grave. Palm’s innovative last webOS revision included many features that have later become commonplace in rival operating systems: multitasking, smooth messaging integration, a clever notification system. It’s not surprising that Rubinstein not only feels that Palm was a trailblazer but that other companies have still not yet caught up with how Palm implemented all these features a few years back.
The biggest source of regret for many ex-Palmers seems to be the Verizon-Vodafone deal that almost happened. That distribution machine might have made a difference; ending up with Sprint as its key partner in the United States effectively doomed Palm. Obviously, HP’s badly botched acquisition of Palm is not a highlight for Rubinstein, either.
The handset market is littered with corpses of companies who introduced new innovations only to watch other vendors package and market those new technologies better. That pattern holds true all the way back to the dawn of the industry. Siemens and Ericsson were the first Western handset vendors to launch color display phones more than a decade ago, only to watch Nokia and Motorola rise to prominence with those same innovations years later. A decade earlier, an obscure Nordic vendor called Benefon had launched the first mobile phone with an answering machine. It’s a soul-crushing industry for most true innovators.