HP Replaces Jon Rubinstein as Head of webOS

HP announced Monday that the company has replaced former Apple vice president Jon Rubinstein as the head of the company’s webOS platform, and that Mr. Rubinstein is being bumped to a “product innovation role.” The move comes in the wake of the rollout of the first webOS media tablet, the HP TouchPad, which has been met with waves of overwhelmingly negative criticism.

HP VP Jon Rubinstein
HP VP John Rubinstein

Mr. Rubinstein left Apple in 2006 with a fair amount of publicity and took over Palm Inc. as CEO. There he oversaw the development of webOS as a next-generation smartphone operating system for Palm.

Shortly after the first webOS smartphones didn’t set the industry on fire, however, Mr. Rubinstein oversaw the sell of his company to HP, where he became the vice president overseeing the division. The HP TouchPad was a hotly anticipated result of the acquisition, one that pared Palm’s software expertise with HP’s hardware know-how.

The result failed to light the world on fire, again. Critics complained about the TouchPad’s form factor, sluggish performance, and glitchy software, even while praising some of the company’s interface innovations. That led to Mr. Rubinstein giving his (now-former) webOS team a pep-letter comparing webOS to Mac OS X in terms of its potential to shake up the industry.

Be that as it may, HP announced Monday that it had appointed Stephen DeWitt as senior vice president and general manager of its webOS global business unit, which is Mr. Rubinstein’s old position.

According to HP, “Jon Rubinstein, the visionary behind webOS, will assume a product innovation role within the Personal Systems Group (PSG) at HP.”

In HP’s press release, both changes are being cast as aggressive moves to help “drive innovation, scale and growth of webOS.” The company’s main fluff quote, however, makes it clear that HP feels the moves are necessary.

Todd Bradley, a member of the Executive Board at HP and executive vice president of the Personal Systems Group, said, “With the successful debut of our first wave of webOS-based products, we are drawing on our deep executive bench to position the right leaders in the right roles to accelerate the long-term growth of webOS.” [Emphasis added - Editor]

Mr. Rubinstein is retaining an VP title, however, as he will become senior vice president for Product Innovation in the Personal Systems Group.