Cringely: Why Steve Jobs really showed iPod chief Tony Fadell the door

“Apple exists solely as an extension of Steve Jobs. Remember that. Anything attributable to Apple is really attributable to Jobs. Other people work at Apple, of course, and excel at their positions, but that is primarily because they were chosen, anointed, or inspired by Jobs,” Robert X. Cringely writes for PBS.

“Here’s what’s going on with Tony Fadell. First, he was vulnerable as a charismatic leader in his own right who has been talked about in the press as a possible heir to Jobs. That alone meant he had to die, but it wasn’t enough to mean that he had to die just now. That decision required an external variable in the form of former IBM executive Mark Papermaster,” Cringely writes. “Steve Jobs wants to give Tony Fadell’s job to Papermaster. It’s not that Papermaster would be any better at the job than Fadell, but there are two over-riding factors here: 1) Jobs can only have so many direct reports, and; 2) he thinks putting Papermaster in Fadell’s job is the best way to get past any legal objections from Papermaster’s former employer, IBM.”

“Papermaster most recently ran IBM’s blade server division and in the mind of Steve Jobs blade servers and iPods couldn’t be farther apart. One is an enterprise sale while the other is consumer. One is a clear IT sale and the other has nothing to do with IT, really, since iPods and iPhones aren’t aren’t computers or computer peripherals. Jobs thinks Apple can make this point stick with a judge and he might well be correct,” Cringely writes.

“Papermaster has to be gone from IBM for a year before he can take a job that clearly competes with his last position at IBM. But Jobs doesn’t want Papermaster for blade servers, nor does he even want him for iPods. Jobs wants Papermaster for the expertise he showed two jobs ago at IBM running Big Blue’s PowerPC operation. Jobs wants Papermaster to lead Apple’s PA Semi acquisition and create a new family of scalable processors optimized for Snow Leopard and beyond,” Cringely writes.

“Of course IBM with its largest corporate legal department on earth has filed suit against Apple, trying to block Papermaster from taking the Apple position. Apple’s legal department is fairly accomplished, too, and Cupertino is a much stronger company than Armonk, which will lead to the ultimate solution to this legal problem. Apple still hopes to convince a judge that it is correct about Papermaster. But if Apple fails in that, Steve Jobs will just pick up the phone and choose IBM Microelectronics as the fab to build the next generation of Apple’s PowerPC processors – a contract worth billions, but ONLY if IBM drops all legal action,” Cringely writes. “Apple will win in the end — I guarantee it. And the way Jobs negotiates, Big Blue will probably end up losing money on the chip deal, too.”

There’s much, much more in the full article – a fun read – here.

Cringely is often quite entertaining, especially if you remember that a certain portion of it falls under the heading of “fiction,” not fact.


  1. C’mon Folks, and MDN

    Cringely ventures into areas no mere mortal would dare consider

    To speculate about what is in the mind of Steve Jobs ?

    And then to write about it ?

    Hey Folks, that takes a set of you know whats

    And, often as not, Cringely does find the nail

    Even if he doesn’t always hit it on the head


  2. This guy is clearly an idiot. Saying that Apple is using P.A. Semi to create PPC chips is a huge indicator that he has no understanding of the situation. P.A. Semi will be used for mobile devices, not Macs, and they will be ARM processors. Jackass.

  3. @ Victor Meldrew:
    From The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage:

    earth, moon, sun. Lowercase, except in the rare instances when they are referred to as astronomical bodies, usually in conjunction with other such bodies and without a the preceding.”

  4. Cringley is certainly entertaining. However, in terms of news or “inside scoop”, Cringley hasn’t been relevant since the mid 80s. These days, I’d give Dvorak more credibility in terms of knowing what’s really going on. I don’t mean to insult Cringley, but let’s be honest.

  5. 1. iPhone/iPod touch use an ARM processor. The ARM processor is a licensed PPC design.

    2. PA Semi also licensed PPC, and build PPC dual-core and single core processors.

    The likelihood is that Apple will use their own PPC-based processors in handhelds, and perhaps Apple TV. No one develops for Apple TV, and OS X runs on both platforms, so there you go.

    The desktop is likely to stay Intel for quite some time… That said, Apple moving more and more of the heavy lifting to the video chipset, thus if Apple has the ability to design their own X86 CPU’s for desktops and laptops, don’t think they won’t do it.

  6. 1) ARM and PPC are not related. ARM started as Acorn RISC Machine, which was designed to replace 6502 in Acorn Computer. PPC is based on IBM Power Architecture with Motorola bus and additional (or eliminated unwanted) instructions for Apple (AIM alliance – Apple – IBM – Motorola).

    2) PA Semi licensed PPC and builds PPC chips for embedded application (IBM and Freescale/Motorola also sells PPC chips for embedded applications. May be IBM feels threaten?).

    As for which architecture is more fit for which application: It really does not matter any more. It was important, when CPU were “relatively” slow and memory was limited. Today, who cares. CPU is fast, even the smallest iPod has enough memory for programs and I’m sure PA semi can take any CPU architecture and make it power efficient (at which point, I expect Apple will choose an architecture they do not have to pay licensing fee on, e.g., PPC. Why pay Samsung to fabricate the chips and pay license fee to ARM for ARM core design, especially when PA semi already has a working core?).

    Will Apple switch their desktop/laptop computers back to PPC? I doubt it. Intel is doing a fine job. There is no reason to go back. It will just remain in background to remind Intel, Apple has options.

    Why did Apple decided to replace VP leading development of iPod/iPhone? May be they just decided they need to change direction. In early iPod market, Apple differentiated iPod from other MP3 through software/user interface. Mr. Fadell was the right person to lead the group developing software. Today, iPod/iPhone software are mature (OSX) and may be Apple believe they need to differentiate their product in hardware (chip level) [Microsoft is capable of duplicating iTune and iPod software given enough time]. So, may be Apple decided to take the competition to next level and chose Mr. Papermaster, a hardware person, to take the lead.

  7. I agree with Truthman. This has ben my guess for the last week.”Tony Fadell left to become Obama’s CTO”. My guess is that the whole CTO cabinet position was thought up by Jobs’. I can imagine Steve saying to Obama “government dose not get tech” and Obama saying “well in my administration I want to address tech issues”

    Tony Fadell “family reasons” right!

    Just a guess but look at google and Apples’ escalating lobbing expenses

  8. There is a, albeit not enormous, difference between referring to an actual author writing under a pseudonym as an ‘idiot’, and calling a fictional character, whose opinions are attributed to him for the purposes of entertaining the easily amused, the same.

    Either way the story attributed to the imaginary Mr. Cringely is complete rubbish.

    And, no, I did not pee in your cornflakes.

  9. The reason Apple purchased PA semi is for microprocessors. Apple was already a PPC partner. Papermaster has expertise in PPC microprocessors. Here is my speculation:
    Both the XBox and the Playstation use PPC chips. Apple is acquiring expertise to design the same class of chips in order to control features and price in game consoles. Apple has been adding features to OS X to make it ready as a software platform suitable for game development. the iPhone and iPod touch have been particularly successful in this area. So it seems to me we might see a game console from Apple in the next couple of years.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.