Summary:

Bob Mansfield, who has led hardware development at Apple for years, has finally found a way to step back from that role after trying to retire last year. He’ll remain with the company, but is no longer on the executive leadership team.

bobmansfield

Apple’s Bob Mansfield is once again taking a sideline role at the company, almost a year after he accepted a hefty two-year incentive package to stay on as the leader of Apple’s hardware and semiconductor engineering.

Macrumors noticed Sunday that Mansfield’s biography had vanished from Apple’s executive leadership page, and Apple has since confirmed to AllThingsD that Mansfield will be “working on special projects” for Apple CEO Tim Cook and will no longer be a member of its executive group.

That’s all Apple had to say, however, which raises as many questions as it answers about Mansfield’s role and the current state of Apple’s hardware development. Mansfield tried to retire from Apple last summer only to be returned two months later after some executive shuffling that eventually led to the elevation of Jony Ive and the sudden exit of Scott Forstall.

At the time, it was reported that Apple engineers staged some sort of intervention with Cook after Dan Riccio was promoted to Mansfield’s job, in part because they didn’t think Riccio was ready for the gig. After the big reorganization in which Forstall departed, Cook announced internally that Mansfield would be staying on for two years, and he reportedly received a package worth as much as $2 million a month in cash and stock to sweeten the deal.

Perhaps everyone has decided that he is, and Mansfield has decided to take a step back from the pressure cooker that is Apple as it searches for the next iPhone or iPad. But Apple declined to clarify Sunday who is in charge of hardware engineering at the company, which is certainly curious as the company works on a formidable engineering challenge: wearable computing.

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