Apple has reclaimed another alumni, PalmSource's Steve Sakoman.

An experienced industry leader, Ohio-born Sakoman has served as an executive at Palm, Be and Apple. He has now rejoined Apple, where he helped begin Apple's Newton project, working with former Xerox researcher and Apple Lisa interface designer Larry Tesler and Jean-Louis Gassée. Gassée has some interesting comments about the Newton project archived here.

Sakoman has led development of the Palm operating system since 2001, following its acquisition of Be. He joins Apple as a vice president, reporting to senior vice president of software engineering Avie Tevanian.

Apple told Cnet: "A lot of great people are coming to Apple for the opportunity to do innovative work like we are doing with Mac OS X, and some of our other core technologies."

Apple veteran

Then Apple CEO Steve Jobs poached the soft spoken engineer from Hewlett-Packard for his knowledge of portable computers in 1984.

Prior to this Sakoman had served as a manufacturing engineer and project manager at Hewlett-Packard, developing the first battery-powered portable PC, the HP-110.

Sakoman served as vice president of engineering at Apple directing processor development between 1984-7. He managed the hardware group responsible for the Apple II and Macintosh products.

Sakoman's pre-Apple track record also includes a stint at Silicon Graphics, where he was the director of consumer products and technologies, which included the Nintendo 64 project.

Be co-founder

The industry mover and shaker co-founded Be (with Gassée) in 1991. Apple later considered acquiring Be before eventually buying NeXT and regaining Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Sakoman and Gassée's idea was to build a brand-new desktop computer, with a new operating system. Gassée wanted to call the company 'United Technoids Inc.', but Sakoman didn't like it and said he would look through a dictionary for a better name.

A few days later, Gasse asked him how he was doing, and Sakoman said he'd got tired and stopped at 'B'. Gassée said: "Be is nice. End of story."

Sakoman was appointed chief operating officer at Be in 2000. Be CEO Gassée welcomed his appointment then, saying: "His track record in creating new platforms - from personal computers to handheld devices and advanced game consoles - is outstanding."

Palm's OS pilot

Sakoman most recently led Palm OS 6 development at PalmSource. There he was responsible for marketing, engineering and developer relations. He is credited with holding Be's development team together following Palm's takeover of that company.

His departure from Palm comes at a difficult time for the company, which laid-off eighteen per cent of employees in its PalmSource operating systems development arm last month.

Sakoman was leading the team responsible for developing Palm's forthcoming Palm 6 operating system, which has been described as: "As dramatic a change for the platform as OS X was for Apple or NT was to Microsoft."

In a statement regarding his departure, Palm said: "Steve Sakoman has the respect of everyone at PalmSource. We are sorry that he has decided to pursue new opportunities and we wish him good luck. PalmSource consists of a very talented integrated team, we look forward to continuing to work together and we're confident of our prospects and our future."