Apple's Mobile Hardware Chief Papermaster Leaves

Mark Papermaster, Apple's top executive in charge of mobile devices, has left the company.

His departure was first noted in a report by the New York Times. It's not clear if he was fired, or if he resigned on his own, but his bio has been removed from Apple's Web site. Papermaster will be replaced by Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Mac hardware engineering.

Papermaster was brought on to Apple to oversee iPhone design and engineering, and it's hard not to wonder if his sudden departure is connected to the public-relations disaster that followed the introduction of the latest iPhone hardware. The company thought it came up with a unique solution for the antenna by putting it in the metal band running around the exterior of the iPhone 4. But almost as soon as the iPhone 4 was in customers' hands in June, some noticed that when touching a certain spot on the phone, reception degraded or disappeared.

His stay at Apple was short and likely disappointing to the company considering the legal maze it had to navigate just to hire him.

Papermaster was brought on to replace Tony Fadell as the leader of the hardware design of Apple's mobile computers in 2008. Apple had to fight with his former employer, IBM, in order to get him into the fold. IBM sued Papermaster, saying he had violated the terms of a noncompete agreement, but the parties eventually settled, and his official first day of work was in April 2009.

We last saw Papermaster's replacement, Mansfield, sitting on stage with Apple's top two executives, CEO Steve Jobs and COO Tim Cook, at the hastily called press conference in mid-July intended to address the iPhone 4 antenna issues.

In retrospect, it was probably not a great sign for Papermaster's future with the company that he wasn't there to explain the reported problems with hardware he oversees.

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