Report: Palm rejected Apple plea on job poaching

Former Palm CEO Ed Colligan rejected a 2007 offer from Apple CEO Steve Jobs for the two companies to quit hiring each other's employees, according to a Bloomberg report, in the latest twist on the rivalry between the two Silicon Valley smartphone makers.

The report, citing communications between the two chief executives, said Colligan told Jobs in August 2007 that what Jobs was proposing was "likely illegal." Tensions between the two companies were high at the time. Apple had unveiled the first-generation iPhone two months earlier and Palm had just hired Jonathan Rubinstein, the chief of Apple's iPod division, to head up new product development. Jobs told Colligan he was concerned that Rubinstein was recruiting Apple employees to join in his efforts, which eventually culminated in the creation of webOS and the Palm Pre.

"We must do whatever we can to stop this," Jobs said, according to the communications. The details of what, if anything, Jobs proposed are not known, and Jobs did not discuss any proposals in the communications that Bloomberg reviewed. 

Colligan said he thought about certain hiring concessions before ultimately deciding to reject the offer Jobs made, according to the report. "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.   

In June, the U.S. Department of Justice said it was beginning an antitrust probe into the hiring practices at Silicon Valley companies. A Palm spokesman told Bloomberg that the company has not been contacted by the Justice Department.

Tensions between Palm and Apple have only increased since Palm unveiled the Pre. Earlier this year, Apple indicated that it might consider a legal fight over its intellectual property, since the Pre has some of the same technologies as the iPhone, such as multi-touch. The two have also fought over the Pre's ability to sync with Apple's iTunes music store.       

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this NYT article

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