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.
“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.