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Ex-Apple hardware chief named CEO of Palm

Jon Rubinstein, the computer engineer credited with building both the iPod and the Palm Pre, has been named chief executive officer of Palm (PALM).

He replaces Ed Colligan, who led the company for 16 years.

Rubinstein, 52, once one of Steve Jobs’ closest advisors, left Apple (AAPL) in 2006 with stock holdings reportedly worth $26 million. He is said to have clashed with Jobs over the wisdom of building the iPhone.

He was recruited as executive chairman to help turn around Palm, once the leader in hand-held personal digital assistants, after the private equity firm Elevation Partners made a significant investment in the company.

The Pre, which Rubinstein introduced in January to great fanfare, is considered the strongest competitor to the iPhone to date. It was released last week, two days before Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G S.

Rubinstein’s elevation to Palm’s CEO completes his takeover of the company.

“I am very excited about taking on this expanded role at Palm,” said Rubinstein in a prepared statement. “Ed and I have worked very hard together the past two years, and I’m grateful to him for everything he’s done to help set the company up for success.”

Colligan plans to take some time off, then join Elevation Partners. He issued a statement in which he declared himself “very proud of what Palm has accomplished so far.”

Palm’s press release is available here.

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