Times of change at Palm

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These are the best of times, these are the worst of times. Palm has announced that CEO Ed Colligan is leaving the company, to take a position in Palm’s investor Elevation Partners. Colligan has been with Palm since the very beginning.

Palm had a trio of core managers in the early days : Jeff Hawkins (the product guy), Donna Dubinsky (the business lady) and Colligan (the sales/marketing guy). They were responsibile for popularizing the PDA. At one point, the three broke away from Palm to form a separate company Handspring, which created the first true smartphone, the Treo 600.

Both Hawkins and Dubinsky no longer have day to day dealings with Palm, and Colligan is the last of the original three to go. There’s been a lot of ups and downs — Colligan was the person famously said he believed that no company (he called Apple “one of the PC guys”) would be able to walk in and win customers in the smartphone market. This was back in 2006, in response to Apple’s announcement of the iPhone. Unfortunately (for Palm), the iPhone became a runaway success, leaving Palm in its wake.

Of course, there was that famous “intervention” done by Engadget. In the latest gdgt podcast, Ryan Block, Peter Rojas and Josh Topolsky recap the story behind the infamous Open Letter to Palm.

Colligan will be replaced by Jon Rubinstein, who will be assuming the role of CEO in addition to his current role as chairman. Rubinstein was part of the original iPod team at Apple. With Rubinstein, Apple now has another “product guy” at its helm.

Palm is no longer market leader, and in fact is now the underdog in the smartphone space. The Palm Pre was a successful launch, but we’ll have to see how Palm executes the distribution of the Pre in the rest of the world.

Good luck, Palm.

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