Mark Papermaster, former head of iPhone and iPod engineering at Apple, reportedly fired in wake of iPhone 4 antenna controversy

Mark Papermaster, former head of iPhone and iPod engineering at Apple, reportedly fired in wake of iPhone 4 antenna controversy

In late 2008, Apple and IBM found themselves entangled in a legal battle when Apple hired former IBM executive Mark Papermaster to head up their iPhone and iPod divisions. Papermaster had formerly risen through the ranks at IBM to become an important executive and highly regarded manager.

Though it's not uncommon for employees to shift around in the crazed world that is Silicon Valley, IBM was particularly concerned about Papermaster jumping ship for Apple. At IBM, Papermaster was a respected chip guru with access to extremely sensitive and proprietary information about IBM's processors and server technology. That said, IBM was concerned that Papermaster would use information about confidential IBM technology to help Apple build competing products. What followed was a litany of litigation. First IBM sued Papermaster. Then Papermaster countersued IBM. In short, the saga of Papermaster's hiring at Apple resulted in legal proceedings that stretched on for a few months before a settlement was reached.

Once the dust settled, Papermaster settled into his role at Apple on April 24, 2009.

And now, just a little over a year since he began working in Cupertino, Papermaster, who fought hard to escape the cluthes of IBM, is no longer with the company he fought so hard to join.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Papermaster recetly left the company, his position now claimed by Bob Mansfield, Apple's Senior VP of Hardware Engineering. The Times report was unsure of whether or not Papermaster was let go or if he left on his own accord, but well-connected Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball writes that Papermaster was let go in the wake of the iPhone 4 antenna controversy.

From what I’ve heard, it’s clear he was sacked. 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.

Interestingly enough, Papermaster did not appear on stage during the recent iPhone 4 press conference, nor did he appear in the iPhone 4 promotional video which was produced well before iPhone 4 antenna issues surfaced. And who, exactly, discussed the hardware behind the iPhone 4 both on stage and on video? Why, none other than Papermaster's replacement, Bob Mansfield.

So while this is all clearly speculative, some suggest that Papermaster's conspicuous absence indicates that he was perhaps on the outs with Apple well before the iPhone 4 hit store shelves. Now it could be equally as possible that Papermaster simply wasn't a good fit for Apple, and indeed, this wouldn't be the first time that an outside hire had trouble meshing with Apple's unique culture.

In the end, though, it's full steam ahead for Apple. And though Papermaster joined Apple amidst a frenzy of tech publicity, his departure from Apple was as abrupt as his entrance was drawn out.

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