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Jonathan J. Rubinstein (born 12 April 1956) is an American computer scientist and electrical engineer who was highly involved in the creation of the iPod, the portable music and video device first sold by Apple Computer Inc.marker in 2001. He has been elected to serve as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

He left his position as senior vice president of Apple's iPod division on April 14, 2006. He became executive chairman of the board at Palm, Inc. after private equity firm Elevation Partners completed a significant investment in the handheld manufacturer in October 2007. He is currently the CEO of Palm, Inc., replacing former CEO Ed Colligan.

Rubinstein is married to Karen Richardson, chairman of the board of directors of hi5 - the world's third-largest social networking site.

Early years and education

Rubinstein was born and raised in New York Citymarker. He is a graduate of the Horace Mann Schoolmarker, class of 1974. He went to college and graduate school at Cornell Universitymarker in Ithaca, N.Y.,marker where he received a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1978 and a master’s in the same field a year later. He later earned a M.S. in computer science from Colorado State Universitymarker in Fort Collins, Coloradomarker.

Rubinstein’s first jobs in the computer industry were in Ithaca, where he worked at a local computer retailer and also served as a design consultant to an area computer company.


Early career

After graduate school, Rubinstein took a job with Hewlett-Packard in Colorado. He spent about two years in the company’s manufacturing engineering division, developing quality-control techniques and refining manufacturing processes. Later, Rubinstein worked on HP workstations.

Rubinstein left HP in 1986 to join a startup, Ardent Computer Corp., in Silicon Valleymarker. While at Ardent, later renamed Stardent, he played an integral role in launching a pair of machines, the Titan Graphics Supercomputer and the Stardent 3000 Graphics Supercomputer.

Steve Jobs and NeXT

In 1990, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs approached Rubinstein to run hardware engineering at his latest venture, NeXT. Rubinstein headed work on NeXT’s RISC workstation – a graphics powerhouse that was never released because in 1993, the company abandoned their floundering hardware business in favor of a software-only approach.

After helping to dismantle NeXT’s manufacturing operations, Rubinstein went on to start another company, Power House Systems. That company, later renamed Firepower Systems, was backed by Canon Inc. and used technology developed at NeXT. It developed and built high-end systems using the PowerPC chip. Motorola bought the business in 1996.

Apple years

After the sale, Rubinstein planned on an extended break and travel. But Jobs, at this point an informal consultant to Apple, asked Rubinstein whether he wanted to work for the Cupertino, Calif.,marker computer maker.

Many didn't consider Apple a plum assignment at the time. The company's reputation as an innovator was waning, as were profits - Rubinstein's arrival in February 1997 came on the heels of a year in which Apple lost US$816 million. But Rubinstein wanted to give it a shot because, he told The New York Times, "Apple was the last innovative high-volume computer maker in the world."

Rubinstein joined Apple as senior vice president of hardware engineering and a member of its executive staff. He was responsible for hardware development, industrial design and low-level software development, and contributed heavily to Apple's technology roadmap and product strategy.

When Rubinstein arrived, his work was cut out for him. The company sold no fewer than 15 product lines, yet its low-end consumer products were widely derided as technological also-rans. Engineering and product development were similarly troubled. Multiple engineering teams worked on the same product independently of each other, and the various lines were built with non-interchangeable parts. Rubinstein fixed both problems.

He also embarked on an extensive cost-cutting plan that axed both research projects and engineers. Expenses were cut in half. After vetting the projects in the pipeline, the one that appeared ready to deliver was the G3, a fast PowerPC-based desktop machine. When it was released at the end of 1997, Apple had what it hadn't in several years: a cutting-edge desktop machine that was on a technological par with Intelmarker-based competitors.

In 1998, Apple's lack of an entry-level consumer desktop was soon to be history. While the G3 was being readied, the company was hatching the idea for the colorful, egg-shaped iMac. Rubinstein assembled a team and then spurred his much-leaner engineering corps to have the product ready to roll in 11 months - a timeline they considered impossible. When it came out, the iMac relied heavily on the USB peripheral standard - not an obvious choice, given that the technology was widely available for several years and little used. The iMac also shipped without a floppy disk drive. Rubinstein was responsible for both decisions.

Future rollouts under Rubinstein's watch included the G4 and G5 series of Macintoshes. The machines, while considered technical standouts, were still hampered by a public perception that they were "slower" than similar, Intel-based PC because their CPUs had lower clock speeds. Rubinstein helped diminish that misconception in a speech following the 2001 rollout of the G4 - and popularized a term, the 'megahertz myth,' to describe how an Apple running at 867 megahertz could be faster than an Intel processor running at 1.7 gigahertz.

As the Macintosh started becoming successful again, the company began to pursue a strategy that would put the computer at the center of consumers' electronic entertainment. Turning the Mac into a digital hub which would connect with a range of devices formed the basis of Apple's strategy moving forward in the marketplace.

As part of this strategy, Apple developed software to edit videos (iMovie), organize photos (iPhoto), and store and play music (iTunes).

Developing the iPod

Due to the relatively low sales of its Mac computer brand, Apple decided to expand its ecosystem in order to increase its consumer awareness. The iPod came from Apple's "digital hub" category, when the company began creating software for the growing market of personal digital devices. Digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, but the company found existing digital music players "big and clunky or small and useless" with user interfaces that were "unbelievably awful", so Apple decided to develop its own. Even though it was a space with immense market potential, previous products had not enjoyed any notable market penetration.

Steve Jobs charged Rubinstein with coming up with a portable music player on a rushed, eight-month timetable. It was Rubinstein who recognized the utility of the iPod’s key technology, the tiny, 1.8-inch hard disk drive on which music is stored; he came across it while on a routine visit to Toshiba. Engineers there had developed the drive, but were not sure how it could be used. It was Rubinstein who assembled and managed a team of hardware and software engineers to ready the product.

The team’s engineers needed to overcome a number of hurdles, including figuring out how to play music off a spinning hard drive for more than 10 hours without wiping out a battery charge. Rubinstein’s production contacts proved invaluable, too; the iPod’s sleek, minimalist design, with its high-gloss, engraveable metal back, was a mass-manufacturing triumph.

The success of the first-generation iPod was almost overnight. By 2004 the business became so important to Apple that the iPod was spun off into its own division, which Rubinstein took over.

Other iPod models were released on a regular basis, increasing the device’s capacity, decreasing its size, and adding features including color screens, photo display and video playback. By early 2008, more than 119 million iPods had been sold, making it not only the most successful portable media player on the market today but one of the most popular consumer electronics products of all time.

While Rubinstein’s fingerprints are on the iPod’s development, he was also instrumental in creating a robust secondary market for accessories such as speakers, chargers, docking ports, backup batteries, and other add-ons. That gear, produced by a network of independent companies that came to be known as "The iPod Ecosystem", generates more than $1 billion in annual sales.

In the 2007 fiscal year, the iPod generated $8.3 billion in revenue, or about a third of Apple's sales.


In 2007, Rubinstein joined Palm, Inc. and led the company's research, development, and engineering. One of his first tasks included winnowing the company's product lines and restructuring R&D teams. He was instrumental in developing the WebOS platform and the Palm Pre. Rubinstein debuted both at the CES 2009. On June 10, 2009, just four days after the successful release of his brainchild - the Palm Pre, Jon Rubinstein was named the CEO of Palm



  1. Kahney, Leander. Straight Dope on the iPod's Birth, Wired News, 2006-10-17. Retrieved on 2006-10-30.
  2. iPod introduction, October 2001
  3. "All Eyes on Apple at Macworld", USA Today, January 11, 2008.
  4. "Beware of Geeks Bearing Grudges", Fortune, CNN. June 4, 2007.
  5. “The iPod Ecosystem; Add-Ons Have Become a Billion-Dollar Bonanza”, The New York Times February 3, 2006.
  6. Form 10-K, Apple Inc.. November 15, 2007.

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