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Palm's Peter SkillmanYou can now add yet another name to the ever-growing Palm defection list. Peter Skillman, the Vice President of Design at Palm, and the person who was in charge of designing the Palm Pre, has left the company, according to TechCrunch.

Skillman is no stranger to product design — something which is evident in both the attractive Palm Pre, as well as his resume. He started out as Senior Project Manager at the design firm IDEO, and moved to a Director of New Product Management position at Palm’s then-competitor Handspring. Palm gobbled up Handspring in 2003, and it appears that he left the company shortly after that. He returned to Palm in 2007 as the VP of User Experience, and in 2008 moved up to a VP of Design position. It’s unclear what he’ll be doing next.

In his recent positions Skillman focused on readying Palm’s triumphant return to the smartphone market — the Palm Pre. But while the Pre was indeed a superbly designed product — it was something that managed to wow us when the iPhone reigned supreme, and good Android phones were nowhere to be seen — a series of bad decisions by Palm prevented it from being an actual success. Those include: Choosing Sprint as the premiere network for the Pre; failing to follow up on the hype the Pre gained when it was first announced; and waiting until Apple was ready to go with the iPhone 3G S before actually releasing the Palm Pre.

Palm then followed up the Pre with the lackluster Pixi phone, and the only releases it had to show for 2010 were the slightly revamped Pre Plus and Pixi Plus phones on Verizon.

Skillman joins a talented crew of Palm execs to abandon ship. In April, Palm lost Michael Abbot — its senior vice president of software and services — to Twitter, and offered stay packages to other key employees to keep them from straying. Shortly after that, HP announced it would buy Palm for $1.2 billion.

More recently, WebOS user interface designer Matias Duarte left Palm to work on Android at Google, webOS notification mastermind Rich Gerringer moved to Apple, and former senior VP of Product Development Mike Bell went to Intel.

As TechCrunch points out, a 2009 Forbes profile painted Skillman, Duarte, Bell, and Abbott as the major brains behind the Pre. Now, after HP’s big buyout, they’ve all left the company for greener pastures. Former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein — who was the one to gather the team to build the Pre and webOS — is still sticking with HP as far as we can tell. But with his dream team gone, even Rubinstein must be having second thoughts by now.

At this point I wonder if we’ll see any innovation coming out of HP’s Palm purchase, or if HP will just recycle Palm’s past innovation until it’s no longer relevant.

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