Now this is interesting: As well as an agreement with Google to avoid hiring staff from one another, Steve Jobs wanted the same from Palm. But Palm’s CEO Ed Colligan turned him down flat . What’s going on here?
The news surfaced through Bloomberg, which obtained information about the interaction between Palm’s Colligan and Apple’s Jobs in August 2007. Though Bloomberg didn’t get their mitts on Job’s no-poach proposal, they did see communications in which Jobs said they must “do whatever we can to stop” the practice. Colligan thought about the offer, and even considered offering some concessions, but ultimately said no. “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” is how Colligan turned Apple down.
That implies that Colligan sought some legal advice after entertaining the idea for a while, and probably made the right move–the Department of Justice is now investigating Apple and Google’s deal. Meanwhile ex-Apple guru Jon Rubenstein has taken up the reigns at Palm.
But why is all of this going on anyway? In Palm’s case, it’s pretty clear–August 2007 is just two months after the launch of the iPhone. Apple obviously had information that Palm would try to make its own iPhone competitor, and was planning on nipping the idea in the bud by stopping people jumping ship with a mind full of information on the iPhone’s design, and Apple’s intentions for the future. Jobs appears to have been angered by Colligan’s refusal, and later communications between the two appear to include veiled threats that Apple was bigger, more powerful, and had a stronger legal team than Palm. At least, that’s how Bloomberg paints the scene. It’s equally possible, though unclear, that Apple knew Palm would ape many of the iPhone’s signature technologies in its competitor device, and therefore planned to defend its innovations. Those worries ultimately have proved true, with the Pre even initially syncing to iTunes by masquerading as an iPod.
The illegality of the no-poach deals is still not 100% understood, and we’re guessing the DOJ will turn its scrutiny on Palm and Apple now to try to clear things up. One question remains though–these cases have surfaced because of the high-profile names concerned, and the runaway success of the iPhone. But how common are such deals between other companies?