Palm has hired Mike Bell, a 16-year Apple veteran, as its SVP of product development. But you'll never hear that from Palm. The hiring of an industry veteran for a top executive spot is something normally trumpeted as loudly as possible. But Palm is desperately trying to keep quiet the fact that it won over Bell shortly before Christmas. Why the silencing effort? Jon Rubinstein, Palm's chairman, was part of Steve Jobs's turnaround team before he left Apple in 2006. Since he joined Palm last year, the smartphone maker has been hiring a number of Apple engineers. There have been "screaming matches and threats of lawsuits," says a plugged-in source.

The loss of Bell was apparently so intolerable to Jobs that Palm hasn't dared announce his hire publicly, though he's listed on the company's management page, and SEC filings reveal he's received stock in the company. A Palm spokeswoman says the company hasn't announced any new hires recently. That strikes me as an unlikely reason: The company is desperately in need of some good news, and wooing a top executive from Palm's most lethal rival in the smartphone market would seem to qualify.