Apple iPhone 4 problems: scapegoat Mark Papermaster?

By Richi Jennings. August 9, 2010.

Another high-ranking executive named Mark fell on his sword late last week. Presumably in recognition of the iPhone 4 problems -- antenna-gate and white-iPhone delays -- Apple SVP of things-that-aren't-Macs, Mark Papermaster, is out of a job. Whether he jumped or was pushed is a moot point; there's been something of a Stalinesque airbrushing of history at Cupertino. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers translate "cultural differences" from Jobsian into English.

Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Maslow’s hierarchy...



Chris Barylick and Jason O'Grady summarize:

Neither Apple nor Papermaster have given a public reason for the departure. ... speculation abounds that he’s the first casualty of the iPhone 4’s problematic antenna design. ... Apple confirmed the shakeup at [its] most important devision in a statement to the New York Times.


In November of 2008, Apple hired ... Papermaster [from IBM] to be Apple’s Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering. ... A court deal later forced Papermaster to wait until April 2009 before starting at Apple.

Sixteen months later ... Bob Mansfield ... who recruited Papermaster in the first place – will be assuming his responsibilities.

Nick Farrell has no hesitation drawing a conclusion:

The iPhone 4 fiasco has claimed its first victim. ... Jobs' Mob has refused to confirm that Papermaster was relieved of his duties after shipping the broken Iphone which requires a rubber band to work. ... No one noticed that Papermaster was not at the press conference on 16 July. ... While Jobs was denying that there was anything wrong with the phone ... Papermaster was already cleaning his desk.


Apple is saying nothing other than to say wonderful things about Papermaster's successor.

Meanwhile, MG Siegler chortles:

One thing that has been odd the past couple of weeks has been the lack of talk about the iPhone 4?s antenna issue. ... The world has moved on. Or it had. The most peculiar thing ... is the way Apple is handling it. Specifically, they keep doing things to bring it back into the news, ensuring the story won’t die.


Word is that he was fired because of the iPhone 4 antenna issue. And naturally, that’s the way everyone in the press is covering the story. ... Apple had to know that’s the way this would play out. ... Why on Earth would they want that? ... The timing here is awful. ... A story that was fading just came roaring back to life.

Here's Jaime Rivera's analysis:

This former IBM executive wasn't really that trusted by Jobs, so it seems he was really relegated in this whole process. ... We could assume the guy chose to leave because his reputation is on the line with this whole mess, but rumors are he got fired because he was struggling with ... Apple's culture ... [and] the production needed to get those iPhones in our hands on time. ... Steve didn't like standing up in front of everybody stating we'd get the white iPhone 4 last month and [being] mistaken.


Mark was actually hired during Steve's leave of absence, so I guess the whole deal was that Stevo didn't like him and found the perfect excuse to get rid of him.

But John Gruber tiptoes around the story:

Does Apple have a “make one mistake and you’re fired” policy? ... If the mistake is big enough. ... But I don’t even know whether the iPhone 4 antenna is the only thing that led to Papermaster’s sacking. ...  It could be that Papermaster is being held responsible for the white iPhone 4 debacle as well.


From an informed source: the bug on the “touching it wrong” signal loss issue was filed two years ago. This is not a problem they didn’t catch, or caught too late. ... The fundamental antenna design predated Papermaster’s time at the company. But ... there was plenty of time to find a solution to the problem.

So Seth Weintraub puts it more plainly:

You don't have a falling out with Jobs and survive. I think the ongoing white iPhone manufacturing issues are a bigger concern than the antenna.


Apple is making as many iPhones as it can (and not meeting demand) and still losing out to Android. That couldn't have been the plan.

And Finally...

Tobias Lunchbreath's thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy
[hat tip: Andy Baio]

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:


Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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