by Tom Kaneshige

Palm Benefits from Apple Alums

Jan 14, 2010
Consumer ElectronicsIT LeadershipMobile

Apple's former chief software technology officer has joined venture capital firm Elevation Partners, which heavily backs Palm. Are Apple alums coming to Palm because they smell rebirth?

During the past decade, a parade of Apple executives have made their way to Palm—and recently Palm scored another big win. Avie Tevanian, Apple’s former chief software technology officer, joined venture capital firm Elevation Partners, which heavily backs Palm, as managing director.

“Avie and I worked closely together at Apple for many years and I have always admired his engineering talent and leadership, his strategic vision for how software can transform businesses and his ability to execute on that vision,” said Fred Anderson, co-founder of Elevation, in a statement.

Tevanian worked with Steve Jobs at Next Computer where he helped develop the company’s operating system (a forerunner to the Mac OS). Later, he led software engineering strategy at Apple. At Elevation, it’s unclear precisely what impact his software insights will have at Palm.

Nevertheless, Palm should benefit with Tevanian around, says Forrester analyst Charles Golvin. Consumers may gawk over a smartphone’s sleek hardware design, but Golvin believes mobile software will be the competitive battlefield of the future. Thus, he says, “bringing in someone like Avie, at least as an advisor or in a more direct role, is going to up Palm’s game in terms of evolving their software platform.”

Tevanian joins a long list of former Apple employees who’ve jumped to Palm, either directly or indirectly. At the top of the list is Palm Chairman and CEO Jon Rubinstein. Other notables include Senior VP Mike Bell and, of course, board member Fred Anderson.

Golvin says cultural similarities between Apple and Palm smooth the path for workers to go from one company to the other. “The two companies share a belief of making revolutionary products that change the market and people’s lives,” he says. RIM, on the other hand, “is pretty much a mismatch in temperament with Apple, Palm and Google.”

The Apple-to-Palm exodus heated up in the summer of 2007. Palm had just hired Rubinstein, formerly head of Apple’s iPod unit, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs feared Rubenstein was recruiting Apple employees, reported Bloomberg. So Jobs proposed a no-poaching rule to former Palm CEO Ed Colligan, according to Bloomberg. Colligan rejected the proposal, calling it wrong and “likely illegal.”

Why leave Apple for Palm? It’s not just the money, Golvin says. “Some of these Apple executives might have been left out of the mobile evolution at Apple. People who are successful in Silicon Valley tend to have a good nose for where the market is going, where opportunity for innovation lies, and clearly that’s much more in mobile than traditional computing.”

Palm also taps into Silicon Valley’s famous entrepreneurial spirit. “In some ways Palm is like a startup, a rebirth of a once-great brand,” Golvin says.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.