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Chip Guru Papermaster Loses Signal At Apple 374

Posted by kdawson
from the heads-gotta-roll dept.
ColdWetDog writes "Computerworld reports that Mark Papermaster has left his job as Apple's Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering. He was the senior executive in charge of engineering for the iPhone 4 and thus responsible in some unknown fashion for 'antennagate.' His name may ring bells from previous coverage of his jump from IBM to Apple. From a brief blurb on Daring Fireball: '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.")'" Update: 08/08 03:01 GMT by KD : Swapped out a registration-required NY Times link for a Computerworld one; corrected the direction of Papermaster's career move.
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Chip Guru Papermaster Loses Signal At Apple

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @10:48PM (#33177660)

    They know it was an antenna problem, but the fanboys will believe whatever they claim.

    Amusing side note, when I went to post the captcha was crucify

  • by xs650 (741277) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @10:51PM (#33177670)
    "At one company, quality kind of matters when you drop something off at the consumer's front door"

    Obviously not Apple or MS? What company are you talking about.
  • *gate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ksevio (865461) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @10:55PM (#33177684) Homepage
    Why does every "scandal" now have -gate appended onto the end of it? It wasn't called "Watergate" because it was a scandal about water...
  • Wait a minute.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:04PM (#33177716)

    didn't Apple go on the offensive to illustrate that ALL smart phones had an attenuation problem if held the right (wrong?) way? Then they fire someone for it. Basically their saying "yeah, we knew there was someone to blame for the design all along but we couldn't admit that publicly and force a recall...that would cost too much money. Lets lie instead, that costs less. We'll quietly shove him out the door when all the hoopla dies down." It can't both be everyone's and one persons problem at the same time. I call bullshit through deductive reasoning.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:05PM (#33177726)

    Are you claiming that the firing of a sacrificial lamb is somehow evidence of Apple's competence?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:24PM (#33177834)

    That's kind of funny, and I realize you're joking.

    But the truth is it wouldn't have made a difference. All of the field testing was done with the phones inside cases made to disguise the prototypes as 3G iPhones. Left or right handed wouldn't have mattered because the flaw wouldn't manifest inside the case. Apple's obsession with secrecy with the objective of generating hype is what bit them in the ass this time.

  • by MrNaz (730548) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:28PM (#33177848) Homepage

    I think he's trying to. He also seems naive enough to think that upper management have anything to do with things like design details. I bet he got a gigantic payout as a recompense for taking the fall for Apple.

    The guy who should be taking the fall is Jobs, for putting aethetics before technical considerations in the team's mindset, and then insulting the intelligence of his customers by claiming that a) it's their fault for holding it wrong and b) that all other smartphones suffer the same problem when their own previous iPhones didn't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:35PM (#33177874)
    This is exactly like what reading celebrity gossip magazines feels like. I mean, it's a fucking antenna. On a cheap cell phone. Who the fuck cares?
  • by trapnest (1608791) <janusofzeal@gmail.com> on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:36PM (#33177882)

    Actually they never said it was a software issue.

    Apple has tried to distract folks by both claiming at one point that it was a software problem,

    Make up your mind yo. PS they did say it was a software issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:39PM (#33177892)

    There isn't an antenna problem, there's an echo-chamber problem: lots of people in the press and the blogosphere are trolling for page hits, and they're much more likely to get them with a negative story than a "it works like it should" story.

      The iPhone 4's antenna design is superior to most other phones on the market. There was a bug in the signal strength indicator, which made the attenuation look pretty dramatic if you were in a low-signal location. Go watch SJ's press conference.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:48PM (#33177936)

    You mean they aren't selling millions of them and that their return rate isn't low? Yea it's clearly been a huge failure that's bringing in tones of profits.

  • Apple Vs BP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:04AM (#33177996)
    Even though his departure may not have been solely caused by the antenna problem with the iPhone, at least someone at the top level got kicked out at Apple after a huge screw up. No one has been punished at BP, Halliburton or TransOceanic. Although Tony Hayward was forced out as president, he was put to another big important position, and you know he was given some huge amount of money/stocks to make up for his troubles. They sent him to Russia because there is almost no english language reporting about the Russian oil industry, and out of sight is out of mind.

    When you get to the top and get that obscene salary, part of the job should be that you take a bullet when things screw up. In American, it is rare for any executive to suffer in the sightest fashion for big problems, even when it is their fault.Just look at Wall St. and the crash. No one got dinged.

    You can bitch about Apple about a lot of things, but at least someone got the axe. There needs to be a lot more of that at the top level if American business is ever going to be honest or meaningful again.

  • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:18AM (#33178054)

    What's the point of surrounding yourself with toadies, flunkies and yes-men if you can't throw them under the bus when you need to?

  • by izomiac (815208) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:31AM (#33178108) Homepage
    While I've got a fair bit of disdain for Apple, the iPhone 4 antenna seems novel and effective, albeit critically flawed. IMHO, the designers should be praised for generating a new and potentially useful idea, while the testers should be fired for not finding this flaw before release. Given Apple's strange punitive actions, I predict the next iPhone will have a very conventional antenna design, which keeps it from pulling ahead of the competition, while the same poor quality control allows some other issue to creep in.
  • Re:Apple Vs BP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbailey999 (146222) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:49AM (#33178172) Homepage

    Why is seeking blood so important to you? "At least someone got the axe".

    To quote a friend of mine: "I hope you'll treat yourself as harshly when the time comes."

  • by brian_tanner (1022773) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:56AM (#33178192)
    Maybe I'm just naive, but to me the story fed by Apple has been fairly consistent. I don't understand all the accusations of lies and the rest of it. I also don't understand all of the posts here about "either its a problem with the design and they should fire someone or its not a problem with the design and they should fire no one."

    This all seems logical to me:
    • All smart phones have signal issues when you hold them a certain way
    • iPhone 4 is worse than most when you bridge the gap between the antennas
    • iPhone 4 *appeared ever worse* than it actually is because of the algorithm calculating bars
    • Even though its worse than most, the problem can be addressed by a free bumper. And hey, even without the bumper, the problem isn't actually causing most people to drop more calls.
    • Whatever the true loss in phone performance because of the problem, there is a real problem, and someone should be held accountable for it. So (maybe), Papermaster bit the bullet for that.

    For me, this covers the whole issue and all of the information that has come out. Seems pretty straightforward and not all that sinister, but again, maybe I'm naive.

  • by Lifyre (960576) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:07AM (#33178222)

    When taken as a whole it's not underhanded or inconsistent or anything like that. Then you look at the calendar of events in regards to their statements and you realize they're a bunch of elitist pricks trying to take everyone for a ride.

    First they said there was nothing wrong with it and you were holding it wrong and if you had a problem stfu and go buy a bumper.
    Then they said it was similar to other phones (it's not even close to the same but RDF Activate!)
    Then they said it was a software error.
    Then people started proving there was a problem and Apple had to have a press conference where Jobs lied his ass off or made completely misleading of fallacious comparisons and they said they would give people a free bumper.
    Then they fired this guy.

    (Note: I think the way Apple handled this issue is a much much bigger problem than the actual antenna design, which is honestly pretty minor in the grand scope of phone problems.)

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:24AM (#33178288)

    (Note: I think the way Apple handled this issue is a much much bigger problem than the actual antenna design, which is honestly pretty minor in the grand scope of phone problems.)

    I have to disagree with the idea that the antenna of a telephone having issues is a minor problem.

    It should be imperative that the antenna be absolutely as strong as possible, because it's a goddamned cell phone. The whole point of the thing is to make phone calls.

    I'll grant you that the antenna issue was not as big as it appeared to be at first, but when you're spending $500+ for a phone, you expect to get the best reception possible. The antenna is not an area that should be skimped, and I do believe that it was Jobs' fault for pushing aesthetics over functionality, and leaving his engineering team stuck with having to make everything work given the aesthetics dreamt up by the art department.

    The rest of your post I agree with. Not that any of this ever affected my decision to not buy an iPhone - Jobs turned me off of Apple a long, long time ago.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:32AM (#33178312) Journal

    I notice that you didn't show any evidence that my statement was incorrect, you merely bitched that Apple decided not to include the field test mode in the customer OS. Can you refute Anandtech's findings?

    >Move along, these aren't the excuses we're looking for...

    How very clever. Try again.

  • Re:Wait a minute.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:36AM (#33178324)

    There's the basic problem all phones have of the human body (the hand, specifically) reducing the signal quality by a very small amount. This is physics, and is absolutely unavoidable.

    Then there's the much more serious problem of bridging a contact on the iPhone's case, which de-tunes the antenna and thereby reduces the signal quality far beyond the usual signal loss caused by holding a phone in your hand.

    Jobs tried to cover up the problem specific only to iPhones by confusing it with a problem all phones have. Without the bumper case (which prevents your hand from bridging the antenna) the iPhone's antenna performance is significantly worse than any other phone on the market. Period.

    That's not exactly what I call "making it better". They had a serious, and frankly stupid, design flaw caused by Apple wanting metal on the outside of the case for aesthetic purposes. Jobs basically called his customers stupid for pointing out there was a problem, and then fired the guy ultimately responsible (though not directly to blame for the problem).

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:41AM (#33178342)

    So one Steve has joined the other Steve, the one who - and that makes a difference - never shone with competence.

    If you're referring to Wozniak, I'm going to take exception to your remark. I've never liked Jobs, not from day one. Anyone who "adores" Steve Jobs wasn't around back in the beginning, isn't aware of the arrogance and bungling the man exhibited early on. Once an asshole, always an asshole, and running Apple has NOT improved his demeanor nor his attitude, not one iota. Wozniak, on the other hand, was a rare spark of true genius. As someone who was very big in the Apple ][ development scene at one point, I must say Wozniak's work impressed me far more than anything Jobs did. Was the Woz a a businessman, a corporate leader? No, of course not: unlike Jobs though, he never pretended to be. But he was a hell of an engineer.

  • Re:Mysterious Ives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:49AM (#33178374) Journal

    a dosage of common sense and logic about the firing.

    We don't know that he was fired. Gruber said he was, but he cites an anonymous source. Until and unless Papermaster or Apple releases a statement about it, this is just speculation.

    -jcr

  • Re:*gate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vcgodinich (1172985) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @01:52AM (#33178394)
    You could say that it started with a few million phones with antennas that failed.
  • by ClosedSource (238333) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:07AM (#33178474)

    I think the interesting question is whether they put the antenna inside in the next iPhone (thus implicitly suggesting it was a mistake to put it outside in the first place) or leave it on the outside.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:27AM (#33178558)

    Partly because he and the company's PR department seems to hold him single handedly responsible for everything the company does?

    Or is it only the good things?

    Oh, and I like how you totally ignore points a) and b).

  • Ya well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @03:24AM (#33178724)

    Apple has been trying to spin this every which way possible.

    Their first phase was just flat out denial. The iPhone didn't have any problems, they had no idea what you were whining about. Users were just being dumb about shit. Shut up and buy it. The second phase was claiming that this problem was well known, and applied to all phones. This was the one that accompanied a bunch of media blitz and their videos of other products, and drew ire from their competitors. Their third, quite phase, was to not admit they had a problem, but acknowledge they would try to make people happy by giving out bumpers for free. Now their fourth, mostly internal, phase seems to be blaming it on an individual, rather than a culture of arrogance or the individual at the top who might be responsible.

    Basically this has just been a massive problem for them because they very much have a culture of not admitting wrong doing. They are always brilliant, everything they do is brilliant, and so on. They probably even believe that internally to a degree (companies often drink their own marketing coolaid pretty heavy). So they wanted to pass this off as not a problem, but people wouldn't let them, they kept hammering on it and presenting proof, as well as threatening lawsuits. Then they tried to spin it as something that was just a general problem, their design had nothing to do with it. Well their competitors weren't letting them get away with that. RIM in particular was extremely angry and might have filed suit. So now they've had to choice of if not to admit at least acknowledge they fucked up.

    As happens in many organizations not used to admitting fault, there has to be a fall guy. The guy at the top can never be wrong, and clearly the whole organization can't be wrong. So one (or sometimes a few) person who was high enough to be important has to be blamed for the problems and get punished for it.

    You see this happen in other places. Militaries it is pretty common. There's a major fuckup and the person at the top doesn't get punished, a mid level general does. There's no overall change of the organization and the top commanders take no responsibility, a fall guy is chosen and they internally pat themselves on the back for fixing the problem.

  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @03:25AM (#33178728) Journal

    You apparently didn't watch the keynote where blow himself gushed about the clever integrated antenna/case design. It's one of those instances where they just couldn't get over how clever their 'design' was.

  • by sayu (1782578) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @06:54AM (#33179256)
    Industrial designers are the ones who decide what the product is going to be, especially at a design-centric company like Apple. The engineers are just the peons who have to agonize over the implementation. Furthermore, it's not like engineering couldn't have solved the issue while retaining the design; a diamond coating or equivalent would probably have been adequate. also: trying to compromise the design between the design team and engineering will just create an inelegant, jumbled product like every other manufacturer puts out. - an industrial designer (lawl)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @07:29AM (#33179360)

    Hey, this happens to every smartphone

    Except that's not true. Every smartphone loses signal if you cover the antenna portion significantly. However, the iPhone4 problem is of a totally different nature: it loses signal considerably if you simply touch a specific portion of the outer edge, creating a galvanic connection between the GSM antenna and what likely is the ground side of the WiFi antenna. No other smartphone on the planet loses reception considerably when you touch a specific spot of the case with a finger.

  • Re:Wait a minute.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by catmistake (814204) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @07:38AM (#33179404) Journal
    It will cost them at least 30 million in lost sales to give those bumpers away. And it's called damage control. Gizmodo and the gullible caused the damage with fantasy. IMHO, Apple should have stuck by their guns... there's no flaw, and nothiing wrong with the antenna or design. Most reviewers said it was the best phone they'd ever reviewed, and most said reception was improved, even before antennagate. Did you even watch the Apple presentation? Watch it. Explains everything. Clearly. All the points you think you wish to make, obliterated.

    see for yourself [apple.com]

    It is nothing but arrogance and ignorance that a schmuck, second rate blogger at a third rate blog thinks they discovered something that a multibillion dollar corporation didn't know. And it continues. Because you want to see Apple fail so badly, you forsake science and all valid evidence that antennagate was fiction. But no matter how bad you want it, Apple, all financial and business experts pretty much agree, is unstoppable. They're just going to keep succeeding regardless of your maligned attitudes towards superior software and hardware.
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:18AM (#33179750)

    The proper response if you don't know is "We don't know if this is an issue, we are investigating if there are any truth to the claims."

    As for the videos, well they were an attempt at disinformation. See there are two issues that affect the iPhone 4:

    1) Signal attenuation due to hands being near it. This is the case with ALL phones. You interfere with the signal a bit by holding it. However, even in the very worst case, if you wrap two hands around it, you get maybe 10dB of attenuation. Over all it isn't a real problem.

    2) Signal attenuation due to detuning the antenna. When you hold the iPhone such as to bridge the gap between the two parts of the antenna, that changes its characteristics and detunes it. This causes fairly large signal attenuation, as much as 20dB (and remember dB is logarithmic). This does not affect other phones as they don't have their antennas where you can make physical, and thus electrical, contact.

    They deliberately attempted to conflate the issues and make it look like everyone had the same problem, which they didn't and hence the strong response from RIM.

    Also trying to pretend like nobody would know this might happen is stupid. One of our professors at work had me grab a video of the problem to use at a presentation. Why? Because she's been researching the problem of detuning of antennas like this for 4 years and this is a good demonstration of it happening. However, as often happens with Apple, form took precedence over function and marketing won the day. It just came back to bite them. Same general thing as all the 18 month timecapsule failures. They demanded the PSU go inside which left too much heat in the unit, causing it to fail early. However marketing wanted it slick and that's what happened.

    Apple made a mistake, and they've been scrabbling around with it ever since. You are correct that I don't know his firing is related, but it seems likely.

  • by wed128 (722152) <woodrowdouglass&gmail,com> on Sunday August 08, 2010 @09:28AM (#33179798)

    It's important to note that they didn't fire the guy that designed the antenna... they fired the guy that managed the guy that designed the antenna.

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