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Palm names former Sony executive as CEO

In the latest executive twist at Palm Computing, the handheld maker announces that former Sony Electronics president Carl Yankowski will be the group's first chief executive.

In the latest executive twist at Palm Computing, the handheld maker announced that former Sony Electronics president Carl Yankowski will be the group's first chief executive.

The 3Com subsidiary announced that Yankowski will join Palm Computing as CEO and director of the Palm division. Palm is set to be spun off as an independent company early next year, with an initial public offering planned soon after.

Yankowski, after leaving Sony, was most recently the CEO of Reebok Unlimited. His new challenges will lie more in execution and organization, rather than in strategy, Yankowski said in an interview with CNET News.com.

"One priority has got to be the prioritization of resources and opportunities between various vertical and horizontal markets," he said, pointing to enhanced wireless communication options and new sleeker designs for Palm products as specific goals. His former employer, Sony, is known for such eye-catching designs. "All of this is very exciting and a pretty good match for my broad-base marketing skills which have been both on the consumer and business side," he added.

Palm recently announced a major licensing agreement with Sony, with the consumer electronics giant agreeing to manufacture Sony-branded devices based on Palm's handheld operating system software. The deal was hailed as a major step for Palm in establishing its dominance in the handheld and mobile communications market.

"My Sony experience is more directly applicable from an operational point of view," Yankowski said, comparing his time at the consumer electronics company to his more recent tenure at Reebok. "The Palm opportunity is very similar in parallel to the Walkman, which was bringing portability to entertainment. Palm brings portability to data."

Palm recently announced a major licensing agreement with Sony, with the consumer electronics giant agreeing to manufacture Sony-branded devices based on Palm's handheld operating system software. The deal was hailed as a major step for Palm in establishing its dominance in the handheld and mobile communications market.

"I look forward to working with the Palm team to both expand upon past successes and develop new capabilities and services to reach a broad range of customers throughout the world," Yankowski said in a statement.

Yankowski's appointment is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of Palm's management team. Reportedly clashing with parent company 3Com's management style, Palm co-founders Donna Dubinsky and Jeff Hawkins left the firm last year to start their own handheld company, Handspring, which launched the Visor device earlier this fall.

Janice Roberts, Dubinsky's interim replacement, was succeeded by Robin Abrams, who left Palm after less than a year to join Chemdex, an e-commerce start-up. Alan Kessler, a longtime 3Com executive, was appointed earlier this year to replace her. Kessler had been a candidate for the new position of chief executive.

"I had my first staff meeting with Alan and all of his troops this morning," Yankowski said, adding that the exact division of duties between Kessler and himself have not yet been completely delineated. "I want to partner strongly with him--I'm not going to bring change for the sake of change. I'm going to look at what fine tuning is appropriate to the organization."

Despite the turmoil, Palm's market share has remained strong at around 75 percent, withstanding new competition from Handspring and continued attempts from Microsoft to gain a foothold for devices based on its Windows CE operating system, a scaled-down OS undergoing big changes.

"[Yankowski] is a highly respected and experienced global business leader with a successful track record of building new markets, extending existing business, ensuring operational excellence and creating brand value," Eric Benhamou, chairman of 3Com, said in a statement. Benhamou also announced that he is joining Palm's board of directors, along with Yankowski and Susan Swenson, president of Leap Wireless and CEO of Cricket Communications.