No Silicon Valley company is more arrogant than Apple. But Palm, the smartphone maker, is trying to copy Steve Jobs's knack for hubris — as well as everything else about its rival.
Anyone would be forgiven for thinking the Palm Pre, the long-overdue smartphone unveiled today in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, is an obvious iPhone wannabe, with a similar shape, a touchscreen, and a fancy built-in Web browser.
It was built, too, by a cast of Apple hand-me-downs: Chairman Jon Rubinstein was formerly Jobs's right-hand man, and Palm's campaign of hiring away Apple employees grew so large, and so obvious, that Jobs is said to have called Rubinstein and screamed at him. Palm is backed by Elevation Partners, a private equity firm where former Apple CFO Fred Anderson now works. (The rivalry might explain why Jobs is no longer seen palling around with Bono, who's also a partner at Elevation.)
But the most glaring way in which Palm has rebuilt himself in Apple's image is in its executives' raging superiority complex. Take this exchange between AllThingsD blogger Peter Kafka and Palm CEO Ed Colligan:
The biggest unknown is price, which went unmentioned during the demo. My assumption is that Palm would try to take market share by coming in significantly lower than the $200 or so Apple wants for its iPhone. But when I ran that theory by Palm CEO Ed Colligan, he looked at me liked I’d peed on his rug. “Why would we do that when we have a significantly better product,” he asked, then walked away.
Jobs could not have put it better himself. But Palm, which has struggled for years, has far more to prove before Colligan and Rubinstein can act so cock of the walk.