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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 xs650 (741277) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @10:47PM (#33177652)
    The fanbois haven't gotten the word yet because their antennas don't work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JamesP (688957)

      Yes, only 0.5% of people called Apple to complain about the antenna issue
      The other 99.5% dropped the call

  • *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...
    • Re:*gate (Score:5, Funny)

      by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:06PM (#33177730)

      Watergate-gate?

    • Re:*gate (Score:4, Informative)

      by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:12PM (#33177768)
      Same reason everyone uses *zilla to describe something big. Its part of modern culture.

      Watergate was a huge scandal that, IIRCC, started with a low key investigation by a reporter into a burglary at the Watergate building that also happened to house an office of the Democratic party. It started small and ended up with a US President being forced to resign in order to avoid being impeached. Until that time most Americans trusted the government to follow the laws of the land.

      Same thing has happened in regards to the antennae issues of the iPhone, it started with a few comments and has mushroomed into a real mess.

      And please, anyone who wants to correct/amend my recollection of Watergate please do, I am feeling to lazy to Google it at the moment.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Yes, however the remarkable thing is that most of the people that now use the *gate terminology have no idea what Watergate was about.
      • Re:*gate (Score:5, Funny)

        by XSpud (801834) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:25PM (#33177840) Homepage

        Same reason everyone uses *zilla to describe something big. Its part of modern culture.

        The use of *gate is so common now, perhaps the phenomenon should be called gatezilla.

      • by ezzzD55J (697465)

        Same reason everyone uses *zilla to describe something big. Its part of modern culture.

        Or -illiterate to describe someone not savvy with something (nothing to do with reading).

        • by jcr (53032)

          That's a legacy of an NEA scare campaign from the 1980s. The public school lobby started tossing the term "computer literacy" around to scare the voters into funding computer labs in schools.

          -jcr

      • by dangitman (862676)

        Same reason everyone uses *zilla to describe something big. Its part of modern culture.

        If that's the case, then why does nobody refer to my penis as *zilla?

        • LOL

          Perhaps they are rendered speechless by it's *zillaishness
        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

          Perhaps because the already refer to it as uPenis?

        • by JWSmythe (446288)

              asteriskzilla?

              I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want any word beginning with "ass" to be mentioned in relation to my penis.

              People just call mine it's informal name, "Thor", although it would seem more appropriate to call it "Mjollnir".

      • by Korin43 (881732)

        Same reason everyone uses *zilla to describe something big. Its part of modern culture.

        Seems more like reporters are just lazy and can't think of new terms.

        • Even if they don't know the origin of the meme they still use it because it is known and generally understood by the masses, where as an attempt to introduce a new meme would require a bit of work on their part to promote it. So they just stick to what they know works. Perhaps its more of a "if it works don't fix it" kind of laziness rather than a lack of originality.

          Though there does seem to be a fair amount of regurgitation in articles these days.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vcgodinich (1172985)
        You could say that it started with a few million phones with antennas that failed.
    • Re:*gate (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @12:34AM (#33178126) Homepage Journal

      It's how new language elements are invented. If somebody ever launches a space probe to a false star, they will call the scandal "Stargate".

    • by antdude (79039)

      Yep, like Digggate: http://www.google.com/search?q=digggate [google.com] ... for Digg.com. Oy. What's next? Slashdotgate (/.gate)?

    • by jcr (53032)

      Maybe because people have forgotten about the Teapot Dome?

      -jcr

  • 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 headhot (137860)

      Well just because all the phones have problems, doesn't mean that apple wants to strive to be better. What if the head of the OSX group put out a product as bad as Windows Vista? Should he not get fired because hey, Vista has problems too.

      Now, if you take Apple at its word that its antenna performance is as good (or bad) as every one else, isn't it still possible, that they wanted it to be better, but it didn't turn out that way?

      • 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 node 3 (115640)

      I call bullshit through deductive reasoning.

      Hmm....

      Facts:

      1. iPhone has antenna problems
      2. All radio phones have antenna problems
      3. Papermaster has left Apple

      All three facts are correct. No amount of logical reasoning can override reality.

      The rumor part of this is that he was sacked for screwing up the antenna. Whether this is true or not can have absolutely zero impact on the reality of the three facts above, even though it may appear to logically conflict with at least one of the above. The reason for this is that people's actions are not necessaril

    • Actually, by definition, this is all histerical, just not ha ha histerical... but slap you in the face until you stop raving, histerical. Apple was burned by Gizmodo, and ravenous Apple zealots, not the antenna design, in the same way radio listeners were burned (once upon a time, remember radio?) by Orson Wells. Histerical.
    • by tyrione (134248)

      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.

      Papermaster was earning a massive salary with consistent stock options coming his way. With these perks come professional responsibilities. Perhaps we'll eventually find out he misrepresented his antenna design to Jobs by not having such down falls. However you slice it, he's a professional and professionals take their lumps.

    • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:05PM (#33177720)

    Make no mistake about it. The antenna was put where it is, on the outside because Jony Ive was in love with the design. Sure, Papermaster had to sign off on the design, but I assure you it's very difficult to say no to Jobs or Ive within Apple.

    If Papermaster was indeed held responsible for a problem that stemmed from Jony (backed by Steve Jobs), then it's probably to his benefit that he is gone.

    I would however agree with the idea that the antenna people have big chips on their shoulders. I'm not saying they never did anything right, but they think every one of them is better than nearly any person outside Reuben's group.

    So I don't know where Gruber gets his info, but going by what I've seen he's only right about half the time so I wouldn't get too wrapped up in what he says.

    Finally, I'll say this about the situation. I wouldn't read too much into this antenna stuff. There have been signs of trouble for a while. When the iPhone 4 was announced (before antennagate), you saw Bob Mansfield in the announcement but not Mark Papermaster. And no matter how much people outside the company may talk about the P.A. Semi group (which reported to Papermaster), virtually all the internal chip work was really stemming from Mansfield's group. I think it's likely Papermaster found his responsibilities had already been stripped away before the iPhone 4 launch, perhaps even before he showed up for his first day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr (53032)

      >There have been signs of trouble for a while.

      I still know a lot of people at Apple, and I hadn't heard any rumblings to the effect that Papermaster wasn't happy there, or that Apple wasn't satisfied with his performance. Of course, it's not like the man is going to find it hard to land another job.

      -jcr

    • by tyrione (134248) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @02:04AM (#33178462) Homepage
      Papermaster was in-charge of the iPhone 4 design and it's interaction with all the hardware specs. Jony is an industrial designer, not an RF Engineer/Scientist. That's Papermaster's domain. He could have very easily vetoed his own antenna design that he developed within Ivy's design team's aesthetics. He has to own it.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 08, 2010 @03:07AM (#33178668)

        Jony puts the antenna on the outside. Then product design gets to try to make the best of it.

        The problem with the antenna is you can easily touch it. And Jony's aesthetic was that the antenna would be on the outside.

        You can say he should own even the antenna being on the outside, but if you do, you must never have tried to change the Jobs/Ive bloc's mind before. VP's don't get vetoes over Jobs' wishes. If he wants an antenna design that has inherent flaws in design (not just implementation) then he gets it. He is the boss.

        Overheating laptops.
        Less than usable mice (several times! the puck was just the beginning!)
        Power supplies with cords so thin they break.
        iPod shuffles that can't be used with 3rd party headphones because the design doesn't have any buttons on it.
        iPhones with recessed headphone jacks that can't work with 3rd party headphones.
        Mac Minis (and laptops, the first titaniums) with impaired wireless reception.

        These problems are not the products of a company that lets those who have practical concerns alter an industrial design selected by Ive/Jobs in the ways necessary to correct their flaws. And you can't blame it all on Papermaster.

  • The publicity stunt of trying to equate their antenna problem with another (common) unrelated problem is clearly not working. And they know it.

    The RDF signal losing strength? Something about grip of death and stars pehaps?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

  • Typo (Score:3, Informative)

    by sustik (90111) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @11:33PM (#33177870)

    Correction: he left IBM to work for Apple.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185)
      Grrrr. I hate that sort of thing. I can't even blame it on kdawson (this time). So much for proofing.

      Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.
  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jbailey999 (146222)

      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 broken_chaos (1188549) on Sunday August 08, 2010 @05:15AM (#33179016)

      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.

      Specifically, they sent him to Siberia. Isn't that pretty much the ISO-approved punishment for screw-ups?

  • 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 issu
    • "the next iphone" is perhaps the biggest test. Everybody makes mistakes. They are absolutely unavoidable. You pour all the money in the world into testing, but eventually something will slip through. (and note I'm not meaning this in the way of letting Apple off the hook...it does seem as if they did NOT do adequate real world testing on the iPhone 4).

      However, the real test is how one recovers. If the next iPhone has another hugely reported on flaw like the iPhone4, well in retrospect the iPhone4 might be t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        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.

  • Papermaster left IBM for Apple. In fact, IBM sued to keep him, saying he had trade secrets that shouldn't be shared. Apple had to wait a few months to get him because of this suit. Ironic that after fighting to get him they're dumping him so soon. If he's the head honcho responsible for the antenna problem (assuming it exists) you have to applaud Apple for holding people responsible for their failures. Are you paying attention Microsoft?
  • Swapped out a registration-required NY Times link for a Computerworld one.

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