After months of debate surrounding the iPhone 4's antenna issues, the New York Times is reporting that Mark Papermaster, the Apple executive responsible for overseeing the iPhone's hardware, has left the company.
It's unclear whether Papermaster, who came from IBM and was central to a non compete case between Apple and his former employer, was forced out or left on his own. After his 26 year tenure at IBM, Papermaster had replaced iPod father Tony Fadell, and will be succeeded by Bob Mansfield, Senior VP of Macintosh hardware engineering. Wikipedia notes that Bob Mansfield had initial doubts about his ability to fit in at Apple, but recognized that he was "immensely smart about microprocessor design, large systems, and semiconductors."
NYT points out that Papermaster was not on stage at Apple's recent press conference addressing the iPhone 4's antenna issues, though Mansfield and COO Tim Cook both were present. Again, it is unclear whether or not he was forced to leave or resigned, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to believe that amidst all the iPhone antenna controversy that someone took the blame. [NYT]
Update: The WSJ is saying that the root cause of Papermaster's departure is due to a cultural incompatibility or personal differences, rather than punishment for the antenna issues. They claim:
Mr. Papermaster had lost the confidence of Mr. Jobs months ago and hasn't been part of the decision-making process for some time, these people said. They added that Mr. Papermaster didn't appear to have the type of creative thinking expected at Apple and wasn't used to Apple's corporate culture, where even senior executives are expected to keep on top of the smallest details of their areas of responsibility and often have to handle many tasks directly, as opposed to delegating them.
One of these people also said Mr. Papermaster had difficulty maneuvering Apple's internal politics.
However, the WSJ still says that the proximity to the antenna issues raises questions, seeing as Papermaster still was the iPhone's hardware lead.