People-passing is an age old tradition in corporate circles. If you want to know some company's internal secrets or steal a bit of its thunder, you simply hire one of its top employees. Of course, this usually favours the larger companies, who have money to steal the top designers of smaller companies. It usually doesn't happen the other way around - but this time it did
Palm has hired Paul Mercer, one of the lead designers behind Apple's golden child, the iPod. Mercer isn't always a name associated with the device, mostly because he wasn't working for Apple at the time - instead, he was running his own design house, Pixo. It was this company that was responsible for the utterly simple but powerful software, as well as the hardware integration to the click-wheel.
The move comes just weeks after Palm's CEO politely called Apple's new iPhone "a highly developed media player, which happens to include a phone." Judging by the new hire, the remark came from a bit of jealousy - we'll see whether the magic of Mercer can help Palm feel a little better, though. It's been a while since Palm has produced anything notable - or at all, in fact. The PDA maker hasn't updated that part of its business since fall of 2005, over a year ago.
Of course, that doesn't mean Palm has lounged about for years. The Palm Treo is immensely popular for business users, and shortly after the iPhone announcement Palm even went on record to state that the treo has "90% of the features at a much lower price." Of course, the Treo is aimed squarely at the business sector - but perhaps the refreshing interface designs of Mercer will help put a consumer angle on it.
If so, Apple may have a little more of a fight than it bargained for.
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