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Steve Jobs Asked Palm's Colligan to Stop Stealing Apple Employees?


Did Apple CEO Steve Jobs approach former Palm CEO Ed Colligan back in 2007 with a gentleman's agreement to stop hiring each other's employees? (Similar to the agreement allegedly just terminated between Apple and Google?)

Bloomberg, based on communications revealed by Palm's Derick Mains, says indeed he did. The conversation reportedly took place in August 2007, after Apple unveiled the iPhone in January and shipped it in June -- and after Apple had hired 2% of Palm's workforce to do it. Palm then brought former Apple iPod executive Jon Rubinstein on board to reboot their smartphone efforts, and it's at this point Steve Jobs apparently stepped in:

Jobs, Apple’s CEO, told Colligan he was concerned that Rubinstein was recruiting Apple employees. “We must do whatever we can to stop this,” Jobs said in the communications. [...] Jobs said Apple had patents and more money than Palm if the companies ended up in a legal fight, according to the communications.

Palm's response?

“Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal,” Colligan said to Jobs, 54, according to the communications. Colligan said he thought about Jobs’s proposal and considered offering hiring concessions, before deciding against it, according to the exchanges.

Palm, of course, did go on to hire liberally from Apple's iPhone engineer ranks. Still, it's interesting to see Palm offering up this exchange on a silver platter during a time when tech companies in general, and Apple in particular, is coming under higher government scrutiny. It comes on the heels of other recent Palm vs. Apple scrapes, of course, including the ongoing jousting match over iTunes sync and USB access, the still simmering patent dispute Jobs hints at above and that Apple and Palm have played about in the media, and of course humorous comments from investor Roger McNamee and Colligan himself about how the iPhone is/was doomed.

[via Engadget]

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 4 comments. Add yours.

SpiceRak2 says:

It is not uncommon for companies to have new employees sign a proprietary clause which restricts those employees from sharing fiduciary information with known competitors for a certain number of years after their employment ends. Although no company can legally restrict an ex-employee from applying to work with a competitor, there may be some legal basis for a breech of confidentiality.
It would have been better if Jobs fortified his relationship with his current employees rather than go to Palm for a resolution.

icebike says:

"Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal,”

Its revealing that Jobs only objected when HE was losing employees, but had no problem when PALM was being raided.

fastlane says:

STEVE JOBS: So, tell me about yourself.
FORMER PALM EMPLOYEE: Well, I used to work for Palm, and I have some info on their new phone that's in development in case you're interested...
STEVE JOBS: Hahaha! You're funny! Nahh, I'm sure whatever you have, it's nothing. So, when can you start?

SEO says:

Just another stupid attempt for Apple to stop doing to them what they have done to others for years.