FORTUNE -- Remember Jon Rubinstein?
He headed up engineering for Steve Jobs, first at NeXT, then at Apple (AAPL), where he built the iMac, the PowerBook, the Power Macintosh and the iPod, before "retiring" a few weeks after publicly dissing the idea of merging a phone with a media player. ("Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee?" he asked rhetorically. See Geeks with grudges.)
Rubinstein came out of retirement three years later, hired a bunch of Apple engineers, and built the Palm Pre, a touchscreen smartphone that was named Best of Show at CES 2009 by CNET and made PCWorld's list of the 20 biggest tech failures of 2010.
I bring up Rubinstein, who has since gone back into retirement, because according to Nick Bilton's report Monday in the New York Times, Facebook's (FB) Mark Zuckerberg is gearing up to build a smartphone and has begun by hiring more than half a dozen former Apple iPhone and iPad engineers.
"One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he had met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones," Bilton writes. "It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used."
There's one important difference between Palm and Facebook. Palm had 15 years manufacturing experience before it built the ill-fated Pre, and Rubinstein even more. Facebook and Zuckerberg have none.
There are plenty of commentators who have tried to handicap the odds of Zuckerberg making a success of his rumored smartphone project, but none quite so trenchantly as Business Insider's Henry Blodget. See If Facebook Really Goes Into The Mobile Hardware Business, Investors Should Run Away Screaming.
The Touchpad, not reliant on Android, Windows or (of course) iOS, is a sign that HP demands to be taken seriously as a software company.
Yes, HP (HPQ) has now jumped into the tablet fray with its TouchPad. It's a whiz-bang cool gadget, and some folks will want to rush out and buy it. Are we talking iPad numbers? Not likely, but whether HP sells as many of its flavor of MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Feb 9, 2011 3:41 PM ET
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"In my experience, entrepreneurs moving into Yahoo! often got stuck doing PowerPoints about "strategy" instead of writing code and shipping products." -- former Yahoo developer and current Etsy CTO Chad Dickerson (TechCrunch)
Rupert Murdoch's much-talked about daily newspaper for the iPad, The Daily, will reportedly launch the week of January 17. Said a source to AllThingsD: "It MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Dec 20, 2010 6:00 AM ET
Hewlett-Packard's Palm buy could be a good fit, but it's got a long way to go before it can catch up with the iPhone.
Not even a year ago Palm (PALM) and its chief investor, Elevation Partners, confidently spun a yarn about the pioneering company's long-term plan. The smartphone market was nascent. It was going to be massive. Even a small share of such a big market would lead to huge MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Apr 28, 2010 5:09 PM ET
Former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein remains committed to Palm's success, even as takeover rumors swirl.
But sales disappointed, first with Sprint, then with Verizon, which offered customers Motorola's Droid – which runs Google's Android operating system – before Palm's Pre and Pixi. Palm's holiday sales were weak, and its financial guidance has been cautious, sending its stock below $4. With investors and industry pundits doubting Palm'sability to survive, Rubinstein sat MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Apr 8, 2010 3:00 AM ET
Tony Fadell leaves Apple nearly 17 months after losing the iPod/iPhone division
He came to Apple (AAPL) in 2001 with plans for building what would become the iPod. By 2006 he had replaced Jon Rubinstein -- who went on to build the Palm (PALM) Pre -- as head of Apple's iPod division, in charge of both what was then the company's biggest cash cow and the project that would become the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 30, 2010 7:14 AM ET
"We must do whatever we can to stop this."
That's how Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs is reported to have asked then Palm (PALM) CEO Ed Colligan to enter into a possibly illegal agreement to stop trying to hire away each others' top engineering talent.
If accurate, it may be one of the most stilted attempts to collude ever recorded.
Colligan's answer, according to Bloomberg's Connie Guglielmo, who says she has reviewed the MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 20, 2009 7:47 AM ET
Ever since January when Palm (PALM) unveiled the Pre -- the first smartphone to challenge Apple's (AAPL) iPhone with a multitouch screen of its own -- the tech press has been waiting for Cupertino to respond. COO Tim Cook made a couple of clenched-teeth threats about companies that rip off Apple's intellectual property, but nothing came of it.
On Tuesday, 10 days after the Pre went on sale, Apple published MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 17, 2009 5:50 AM ET
Jon Rubinstein, the computer engineer credited with building both the iPod and the Palm Pre, has been named chief executive officer of Palm (PALM).
He replaces Ed Colligan, who led the company for 16 years.
Rubinstein, 52, once one of Steve Jobs' closest advisors, left Apple (AAPL) in 2006 with stock holdings reportedly worth $26 million. He is said to have clashed with Jobs over the wisdom of building the iPhone.
He was MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 10, 2009 6:20 PM ET
It came up briefly at CES in January when a Palm (PALM) representative let the cat out of the bag (see here). Nobody followed up.
But with more and more Palm Pres appearing in the wild -- in the hands of Palm employees, Elevation partners, one of my high-school buddies, even the Boy Genius -- we can now confirm this little secret:
Plug a Pre into a Mac and it syncs, seamlessly, MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 28, 2009 7:14 AM ET
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