Peter Skillman, the lead designer on a team that created the Palm Pre, has left Hewlett-Packard, Tech Crunch has confirmed. Where Skillman is headed has yet to be announced.
HP purchased smartphone-maker Palm in July, and Skillman was the final remaining member of the Pre design team, which had been assembled by then-Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein. According to a 2009 Forbes profile, the team, originally culled from all areas of the mobile industry, consisted of Apple-veteran Mike Bell, who last month left to join Intel; Matias Duarte, a contributor to the T-Mobile Sidekick and Helio Ocean, who was hired to work on Palm's WebOS and is now with Google's Android team; and Michael Abbott, who left Palm in April and is now Twitter's vice president of engineering.
The news of Skillman's departure comes just days after the sudden resignation of HP CEO Mark Hurd Aug. 6, following findings of ethical misconduct, after an inquiry into sexual harassment allegations made by a former consultant to HP.
Until a new successor is chosen, HP will be led by Cathie Lesjack, a 24-year veteran of HP who has served as the company's CFO. Lesjack and other executives insist that Hurd left the company well positioned for success. In a quickly called Aug. 6 conference call, Lesjack told a select group of analysts, "I have never been more confident in the company's future. Our strategy of profitable growth is solid and our ability to execute is irrefutable."
How Skillman's departure will affect HP is less clear. HP executives have confirmed that Rubinstein and a Palm team are working on a roadmap for future handsets, and the industry has buzzed with rumors regarding the tablet devices - head-on competitors to the Apple iPad - that HP has planned. In mid-July, All Things D reported, citing unnamed sources, that HP was putting plans for an Android-running tablet on hold, likely to better focus its efforts on two other tablets: a Microsoft-based, enterprise-geared model, and a more consumer-focused tablet running WebOS.
The name of the latter is expected to be the PalmPad, following HP's July 14 filing of a trademark request for the name.
For now, HP still has its key Palm player in place in Rubinstein. A former Apple employee who contributed significantly to the Apple iPod and iMac, Rubinstein was named CEO of Palm in June 2009, just days after the relatively successful launch of the Palm Pre. Rubinstein, as head of the Palm global business unit within HP, now answers to HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley.