HP's Rubinstein Moves From WebOS Development to PC Group

HP is shuffling Jon Rubinstein and other executives, in what could be a bid to better position the company to distribute its webOS operating system.

Hewlett-Packard is apparently still intent on shifting around its top-level executives: Jon Rubinstein, formerly general manager of HP's Palm Global Business Unit, will become senior vice president of the Personal Systems Group (PSG).

"With the launch of webOS 3.0, our team has delivered a world-class platform for HP to leverage going forward, and it is now time to take things to the next level," Rubinstein wrote in a July 11 statement issued by HP. "I'm looking forward to my new role and driving further innovation for webOS and other PSG products."

Stephen DeWitt will become senior vice president and general manager of HP's webOS global business unit. He was formerly head of Personal Systems Group Americas, a role that will be taken over by Stephen DiFranco, head of HP's Solutions Partners Organization for the Americas.

This latest executive game of musical chairs comes barely a month after HP CEO Leo Apotheker relieved three longtime executives from their positions, in what some outside analysts perceived as a bid to consolidate his power. HP's most recent earnings report, while mildly profitable, also featured a sharp year-over-year decline in sales of HP consumer PCs. Apotheker also rearranged his chain of command, giving some executives additional duties and having others report directly to him.

Rubinstein's move to the Personal Systems Group could be part of HP's grand strategy involving webOS. The company plans on porting the operating system, which it acquired as part of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm, beyond smartphones and tablets onto its desktops and laptops. The Personal Systems Group oversees those PCs, meaning that Rubinstein will help guide webOS in this expansion.

The executive shifts also come less than two weeks after HP launched the TouchPad, a tablet with great significance for the company. If the device proves successful, it could help validate webOS as the operating system of the company's future; failure, however, will likely hobble HP's attempts at rebranding itself as a "cool" consumer-tech manufacturer.

In its review, eWEEK found that the TouchPad feels like a work in progress, albeit one more polished than some other tablet offerings on the market. Although HP's tablet boasts a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, the user interface feels slow. Every application seems to require a few seconds' worth of loading time before it actually runs. Swiping between application-launcher screens also comes with the occasional split-second stall.

"You've also seen that reviewers rightly note things we need to improve about the webOS experience," Rubinstein wrote in a memo to employees that conveniently leaked onto the Web. "The good news is that most of the issues they cite are already known to us and will be addressed in short order by over-the-air software and app catalog updates."

Given HP's big plans for webOS, those updates are almost certainly coming.

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