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Apple iPhone exec falls on sword

Don't let the antennagate hit you on your way out

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The Apple hardware exec reportedly responsible for the iPhone 4's much-maligned and equally much-defended antenna design has left One Infinite Loop.

Don't, however, jump to the conclusion that Mark Papermaster is a victim of the iPhone 4 "antennagate" debacle. Remember, in his press conference of July 16 — an event from which Papermaster was conspicuouly absent — CEO Steve Jobs assured us all that "There is no antennagate."

Right.

The news that Papermaster is no longer on Apple's executive team comes from a report by The New York Times. That news organ reached Papermaster by mobile phone, but he "declined to comment" as to whether he jumped or was pushed.

His exit was confirmed by an Apple spokesperson, who told the NYT that the company's current Mac-hardware headman, Bob Mansfield, will be assuming Papermaster's responsibilities.

Papermaster's Cupertino sojourn was brief, odd, and contentious. In early November 2008 he left his posts in IBM's blade server and PowerPC groups after 26 years at Big Blue to join the Cupertinians after Apple's iPod honcho Terry Fadell reduced his role for "personal reasons".

Papermaster's move to Apple was stalled when IBM levied a non-compete lawsuit. But in early 2009, after a "You sue me? Well, I sue you!" back-and-forth, Papermaster moved into One Infinite Loop.

His arrival in Cupertino puzzled many observers: was he there, as IBM said they feared, to jump-start an Apple move into servers? [Cue laugh track. — Ed.] Was he there for his PowerPC expertise, possibly to help guide mobile-processor efforts after Apple's acquisition of PowerPC-smart PA Semi?

But key members of PA Semi's brain trust bailed, and the A4 processors in the iPad and iPhone 4 were reportedly developed with heavy lifting from Intrinsity, the chipmakers that Apple gobbled up this April. Can't have been much fun for Papermaster.

Perhaps, as the NYT suggests, "antennagate" was the last straw for Papermaster — or for his masters. Somebody knows, but nobody's talking. ®

Bootnote

Younger Reg readers my not fully appreciate the Soviet-style implications of the following quote from the NYT's Papermaster article, but those "of a certain age" might: "Mr. Papermaster, who was listed as an executive on Apple's Web site earlier Saturday, had vanished from the site later in the day."

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