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One-time Apple engineering superstar Jon Rubinstein's decision to leave Hewlett-Packard couldn't come at a worse time for the world's largest computer company.
HP confirmed Friday that Rubinstein, the father of the Apple iPod and a one time confidante of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has left the building.
Rubinstein's exit comes as new HP CEO Meg Whitman is moving quickly to bring a healthy dose of innovation with a capital I to the company that by more than one account has lost the innovative spark that led to countless product breakthroughs over the years.
Given HP's decision to exit the fast growing tablet market last year, a vote of confidence from Rubinstein to lead a new product development charge at HP would have gone a long way. Remember Rubinstein was given what HP called a "product innovation" role within HP's PC business last July.
It is more than symbolic that Rubinstein's au revoir comes just two days after Apple posted an almost unimaginable 74 percent increase in sales in its fiscal first quarter to $46.3 billion after selling a mind-boggling 37 million iPhones and 15.43 million iPad tablets.
The consumerization technology tidal wave that is Apple is reshaping the commercial computing market at a blinding pace, and HP just lost one of the engineering superstars that helped set that consumerization technology table.
Remember, this is the engineer that received what can only be considered a glowing farewell from the hard-to-please Jobs: "Jon has done an excellent job as a member of Apple’s senior management team, as well as building our world-class iPod engineering team and running our hardware engineering team prior to that," said Jobs at the time.
Rubinstein resigned from Apple in 2006 but stayed on as a consultant until joining mobile device upstart Palm the following year. Rubinstein was CEO of Palm when HP acquired the company for $1.2 billion in July 2010. After the acquisition, Rubinstein became a senior executive within HP's PSG business charting strategy and product development with Bradley.
Rubinstein's departure raises once again all the ugly issues that surrounded the HP board’s decision to disclose last August 18 that it was exploring "strategic alternatives for its Personal systems Group" including "a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction."