Did the man in charge of engineering the iPhone 4 leave of his own volition, or was he made to take the fall?
Mark Papermaster, Apple’s senior vice president of iPhone and iPod hardware engineering, left the computer giant over the weekend. And his departure from Infinite Loop has sparked reams of comment about whether the man blamed for the “antennagate” saga jumped or was pushed. Further reports and gossip have suggested that rather than being fair game for the chop, Papermaster was actually a scapegoat for issues which stretched back to before his arrival at Cupertino in October 2008.
So why would Papermaster be fair game? Well, he headed up the division, which oversaw the development of the iPhone, 4 and ultimately, the buck stops with him. With a direct line to Steve Jobs, this was a man who could quite easily be seen as responsible for causing an untold amount of trouble as Apple battled to extinguish the reception problem, only to find itself engulfed by the flames.
If he knew about the reception problem, why was the iPhone 4 allowed into the wild in its current state. Did he not feel the need to say that the external antenna caused signal to fall and calls to be dropped? Except, it isn’t that easy. Inside sources have said the reception problem was known about as early as 2008, well before Papermaster arrived in Cupertino after a protracted departure from IBM.
Of course, he could have been charged with finding a fix, but it appears Apple was well aware of the potential risks of releasing the iPhone 4 and went ahead anyway. It’s easy to see Papermaster as a scapegoat then. Getting rid of a top exec shows Apple taking action, and also means it can now hunker down and crack on with the next-gen iPhone without the man it may well perceive to be behind the problem.
That said, it appears that Papermaster had lost the confidence of Steve Jobs months ago, as he struggled to cope with the micro-management approach which dominates Apple. Bosses are expected to know and take care of every single issue personally rather than hand responsibility to lesser colleagues.
Papermaster seems to have paid the price for not playing the game, but the timing of his departure is convenient. Shift him before the iPhone 4 arrives and Apple would have created headlines about its new blower not being up to scratch.
At least now it’s able to pin the problem on one man. It’s fair to say that Papermaster sits somewhere between scapegoat and fair game. He evidently didn’t fit in at Apple and had the title to ensure that if he was shown the door, Steve Jobs had someone to blame for the most embarrassing incident ever to tarnish his company.
Bob Mansfield, who looks after Mac engineering, has been shifted across to take care of the iPhone. Apple through and through, it’ll be his job to make the iPhone 5 robust and without the antenna woes that have caused the current iteration so many problems.