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Papermaster already out from Apple after iPhone 4 fiasco [U]

updated 05:15 pm EDT, Sat August 7, 2010

Apple's Papermaster out after just two years

(Updated with added insights) In a surprise move, Apple today confirmed that Senior VP of Device Hardware Engineering Mark Papermaster was leaving the company after less than two years. Neither the company nor Papermaster has said whether the executive is leaving voluntarily or was forced out of the position, but it has already removed his biography. Mac hardware engineering Senior VP Bob Mansfield will take over his responsibilities in the short term.

The departure is considered an embarrassment for Apple due to the effort required to get his services. It had fought to keep Papermaster in 2008 after IBM had claimed he was violating a non-compete clause in his contract and could potentially leak details of POWER processors and other IBM technologies. Papermaster won after it was found that his work at Apple wouldn't tread on areas where IBM would be an Apple rival.

Why Papermaster left isn't certain at this stage, but his oversight of a significant amount of the iPhone 4 hardware may have left him as the executive indirectly responsible for the smartphone's known reception problems. While the unique externalized antenna design does increase the reception in most circumstances, its high sensitivity to signal drops from contacting key points has been a source of humiliation for a company often touted for its innovative designs. Apple has tried to minimize the problems by reporting a more accurate signal level in firmware, but a giveaway of free cases to avoid a public relations disaster may cost the company over $170 million if everyone takes advantage of the program.

Suspicions of distrust around Papermaster were evident at the emergency July 16 press conference, where Mansfield was on stage with Steve Jobs and Tim Cook despite having little direct influence over the iPhone 4.

Update: Historically reliable tech writer John Gruber has heard from Apple sources that Papermaster was fired and that, on July 23, he had been identified as "the guy responsible for the antenna." Team members handling the antennas reportedly "used to have a big chip on their shoulder," the source said. If true, the company may privately consider the iPhone 4 antenna hiccups a serious enough issue to demand a change in staff.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. DeepDish

    Forum Regular

    Joined: May 2001

    +5

    unfortunate

    We are a small company. But last year we had to reprint our magazine because of an embarrassing misspelling on the cover.

    We had to let go our editor because of it. Life isn't fair, but he was ultimately responsible so had to be let go. Cost our company a lot of money for both the reprinting and finding/hiring a new editor.

    I don't know if Papermaster was ultimately responsible for hardware design. I thought he was more of a chip design guy.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. graxspoo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2008

    -16

    nothing to see here, move along

    "The iPhone 4 is magical. The iPhone 4 is insanely great.
    But just in case its not, here's a free bumper...
    ...and we're firing the guy in charge of its design."

  1. Fast iBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003

    +14

    Factory.

    Typically someone in his position is in control of which factories produce the hardware. Knowing that one factory was responsible for shipping uncoated steel antennas leaves the culpability soundly in his hands. The PR disaster was his fault, he should have had better supervision stationed at the factory to oversee production of such a landmark and important product for apple.

    Lesson learned.

    Interesting, though, that while this was going on, HTC shipped phones with faulty displays & non-functional wifi yet no one really paid attention to that.... I think apple's success in the mobile market is seen as more of a threat than then another company that only makes phones actually s******* up.

    I think Apple's 2 whole iOS phone models on sale coming in 2nd behind 20+ android OS phones says a lot about getting it right with just one product vs playing to the whims of the public, who in reality don't, in general, know what they want from any given product. That's called leadership, something lost in the skeleton of american industry. Would be neat to have these phones made here vs china.

    - A

  1. iphonerulez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2008

    -8

    Companies are always looking for a scapegoat

    and they found one in Papermaster. No problem, he'll have another job in a month.

  1. Paul Huang

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 1999

    +5

    Made in USA and price will become 8X as much

    $1,600 for an iPhone 4/16GB. I don't think so.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Nov 2009

    -13

    re: Companies are always looking for a scapegoat


    >> No problem, he'll have another job in a month.

    Yeah, working for HTC filing many revolutionary patents and designing cutting edge iPhone killers.

  1. JuanGuapo

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2008

    +6

    Theories...

    My guess is he wasn't working out. Fired after only 16mo is not a good sign of anything.

    Here's my theory.... it has absolutely nothing to do with the phone, at least not in a technical way. Why? Three reasons...

    a) They never fired the guy (Powell) who lost the phone in a bar. In fact, Jobs even backed him by saying it was debateable whether the phone was stolen or not. Therefore, it's at least plausable if not completely true that Apple backs every single one of their employees.

    b) You always hire and keep the people you like. You fire the people you don't, despite whether or not they are a good worker. In this case, I'm willing to bet he copped an attitude with Steve Jobs and/or some of the higher ups (or something along these lines) and it didn't go over well. It's not like it would be a surprise to anyone that Jobs would fire someone on the spot.

    c) He got Jon Rubenstein-itis and was "shopping" for a position at a competing company for higher pay. Isn't that how he was hired at Apple to begin with?

    All in all, I'm skeptical if not doubtful about it being the iPhone 4 itself but rather his attitude and professionalism. John Gruber @ DaringFireball.net had an interesting statement on his website... http://www.daringfireball.net

    From what I’ve heard, it’s clear he was canned. Papermaster was a conspicuous absence at the Antennagate press conference. Inside Apple, he’s “the guy responsible for the antenna” — that’s a quote from a source back on July 23. (Another quote from the same source: “Apparently the antenna guys used to have a big chip on their shoulder. No more.”)

  1. DeepDish

    Forum Regular

    Joined: May 2001

    +2

    I still feel bad for the guy

    I still feel bad for the guy. He was at IBM for a long time and it seemed like Apple really wanted him. He must be smart and will probably land a good, high paying job in no time.

    But if he was responsible for antenna, then it cost Apple a lot of money and damaged their reputation. He has to go.

    But if he is a scapegoat, then canning him isn't right either.

    There can't be only one person responsible for all of this.

    Maybe none of them are left handed.

    Maybe they only tested the phone outside with a case on.

  1. chotty

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2003

    -1

    I wonder then...

    just WHO is responsible for the MUCH larger proximity sensor issue?

  1. dimmer

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Feb 2006

    +5

    Well

    It was foreseeable: the guy was a chip dude, not an antenna dude. Apple hired him for his resume, but the IBM suit required he work in a role district from CPU stuff. Leaving him in major "fish out of water" territory. He'd either fail or succeed depending upon those who worked for him, not on his own merits. That he failed says more about lawsuits and corporate power than it does about him as a person.

    I wish him well in his future undertakings.

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