Google Grabs Key Palm Software Designer: One More Step Towards Mobile (World) Dominance

by Matt Klassen on May 31, 2010

If you thought that its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard would stop Palm from hemorrhaging valuable employees, well, you’d be wrong. News released late last week indicated that Palm’s mobile design genius Matias Duarte has jumped ship in favor of joining Google’s Android crew.

It is clear that this move will hurt Palm, as Duarte and his team were responsible for the ingenious creation of the webOS, quite possible the only thing that Palm has done right over the past few years, and not only that, every career move that Duarte has made over the past few years has sparked a mass exodus of his design team employees who follow him like Moses heading to the Promised Land.

Though this move is certainly a blow to Palm, you don’t need to feel bad (unless you own a Palm device, I guess) for the clear winners in this deal are Android users themselves, as their user interface is about to get much, much better. But with moves such as this, does anyone else get the feeling that Google is slowly maneuvering itself to take over the entire mobile market… if not the entire world?

No? It’s probably just me then.

Although few will argue that Android has numerous selling points, for many it’s always been clear that its user interface hasn’t been one of them. Say what you will about the benefits of an open platform like Android, about its advanced functionality, or its increasing popularity, simple and intuitive user interface is not something that it’s known for, especially in a market where it competes with such operating systems as Apple OS 4.0 and Palm’s webOS.

But with the arrival of Duarte—and the impending arrival of the rest of his team, who are sure to abandon Palm in the coming weeks—all that is about to change for the little green Android robot we’ve all come to know and love. While it’s frankly far too early to predict what sort of changes Duarte will implement in the Android OS, with his sterling track record you can be sure that whatever Duarte does, it’ll be great.

Clearly this move is a blow to Palm, as they have lost one of the few shining stars remaining on their ever-dwindling payroll, but will it affect HP’s plans for Palm? Probably not. The simple fact is that Hewlett-Packard probably wants to do its own thing with its new Palm employees anyways, so they’re probably not crying too hard over Duarte departure. Sure it’s difficult for HP to see one of the lead designers of its newest acquisition flee so soon after the merger, but HP is bound to have its own set of designers, and if they don’t, they certainly have the cash to find some more.

For me, however, this move is a sign of something much greater: the increasing integration and monopolization of the mobile market by Google and a select number of other key competitors, a sign that does not bode well for tech consumers like you and I. For you see, in a true capitalist market, differentiation and competition spur on growth and innovation, as companies have to continually work to keep their market share, which means that consumers have choice when it comes to the products they wish to purchase.

Despite the fact that when all the valuable assets of the mobile market are scooped up by a very small number of companies it increases the market share of those few companies, in the end moves such as this leave consumers with less market choice and less ingenious innovation. While I’m sure it’s just me, I’m starting to fear Google is its darkly ominous “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy. It’s always the ones that try to do no evil that end up destroying the world.

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