Cisco Taps Ex-IBM, Apple Exec Papermaster to Run Switch Chip Unit

Mark Papermaster, a former IBM executive who left Apple after the iPhone 4 antenna issues arose, will run Cisco's switching technology group.

Mark Papermaster, who spent 25 years with IBM before a tumultuous year-plus at Apple, is now in charge of the chips that go into Cisco Systems' key data-center switches.

Papermaster reportedly started work with Cisco Nov. 15, where he is vice president of the networking giant's Silicon Switching Technology Group. In that role, he will oversee the ASIC chips that go into such core Cisco products as the Nexus 7000 and Catalyst switch portfolios.

Papermaster's business is part of Cisco's larger Data Center, Switching and Services Group, which is run by John McCool, senior vice president and general manager.

Cisco has garnered headlines over the past 12-plus months as it pushes beyond its networking roots into a wide range of what CEO John Chambers calls "adjacencies," including collaboration, smart grids and sports arenas. However, those efforts focus on the idea that, at the foundation of how the Internet is evolving and changing the way people work and communicate, lies the network.

Papermaster's hiring comes three months after he left Apple following the fallout from the company's well-publicized problems with the exterior antenna rim of the iPhone 4, which happened on his watch. Soon after the iPhone 4 was released, customers and reviewers found that if the device was held in a particular way that included touching the exterior antenna rim, reception was reduced to almost nothing.

Apple was flogged by users and publications alike for its tepid initial response to the issue, and later offered to give users free bumpers that cover the smartphone's antenna rim.

However, despite the issues with the antenna and other parts of the device, reports following his departure indicated that Papermaster left because he was unable to fit in with Apple's culture and did not get along with CEO Steve Jobs.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which interviewed several people who were said to be familiar with the situation, Papermaster had been on the outs with Jobs for a while before he left.

"Mr. Papermaster had lost the confidence of Mr. Jobs months ago and hasn't been part of the decision-making process for some time," the Aug. 8 WSJ article said, paraphrasing what some of the anonymous sources told the publication.

Papermaster had been Apple's senior vice president for mobile devices, leaving after only 16 months on the job.

He previously had spent 25 relatively lower-profile years at IBM before coming to Apple in 2008. Apple's hiring also grabbed headlines, as IBM sued to block Papermaster, who over the years worked in a number of sensitive areas at Big Blue, including in its PowerPC chip unit and its BladeCenter blade-server business. In its lawsuit, IBM claimed that Papermaster's hiring at Apple violated his non-compete clause with IBM. After several months of legal wrangling, the case eventually was settled in January 2009, with Papermaster agreeing to certify multiple times during that year that none of his work with Apple violated the conditions of the non-compete clause.