Judge raps Apple’s Papermaster iPod plan

Apple’s iPod plans took a hit last night when a New York judge banned newly-recruited team leader, Mark Papermaster, from taking employment with the Cupertino company.

Apple this week announced it had hired Papermaster away from IBM, where he led that company’s server operations. Papermaster is to replace Tony Fadell (who resigned Apple this week) as head of Apple’s iPod group. (Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering).

IBM complained that taking a job at Apple will be prejudicial to its corporate secrets and would defy a previously-reached agreement under which Papermaster agreed not to work for a competitor for a year after leaving IBM.

Apple argued that Papermaster’s role will be to lead the engineering teams making iPods and iPhones and that he would report directly to CEO Steve Jobs, arguing this had nothing to do with its server operations and as such taking the job wasn’t in defiance of that forementioned deal.

IBM took the case to the court, where a judge declared Papermaster “immediately cease his employment with Apple until further order of this court.” The judge set another hearing for November 18.

Apple’s in-court argument against IBM’s claims also revealed an interesting tidbit – seems the PA Semi chip design expert team isn’t in fact associated with the iPod business unit at the company, instead it’s operating under the Mac group.

That claim is in defiance of prior statements by Jobs, who once said the PA Semi team will work on iPod and iPhone chips. Seems that’s not the case and the team’s working on Macs.

We believe PA Semi to be currently re-tooling an ARM processor for use in a future generation netbook from Apple, scheduled for introduction next year. However, that belief is entirely based on rumour, speculation, and guessing. (Incidentally, if there’s an an analyst firm out there seeking an Apple guesser feel free to drop us a line).

Apple says it is confident Papermaster “will be able to ultimately join Apple when the dust settles.

We think Apple and IBM will patch things up, probably with some exchange of cash and a legal deal, and anticipate Papermaster will be quietly back in position early next year.

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