Apple's mysterious chipmaker pilfering

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You know, it's been a while since Apple has been involved in any straight-up legal intrigue, but fortunately that drought ended last Friday when IBM filed suit over some personnel poaching. Mark Papermaster, a Power Architecture guy who had been Big Blue's VP of Blade Development, was under the usual non-compete agreement -- no working for any of IBM's competitors until a full year after he left the company -- but decided to go take a job at Apple anyway, doing ... something. But what?

Nobody seems to know, exactly -- the very fact of his hiring was only brought to light by the lawsuit. It could involve cloud computing or blade servers or mobile chips, or some dubious plan to acquire Freescale. It seems logical that the move is related to Apple's also-still-mysterious decision to acquire P.A. Semi this past April, but how that fits into the rumors of Apple developing its own ARM-compatible mobile chips remains to be seen.

One interesting thing to me, at least, is the fact that Papermaster's non-compete agreement would come into play at all, as that implies that Apple and IBM are, you know, still competitors. It's been a long time since the IBM PC and the Apple II were battling for hearts and minds. Now, I know that legal departments are prone to interpret the word "competitor" very loosely, but I do think it's interesting that one of the rare markets in which IBM and Apple to go head-to-head is in servers, where IBM's blades do a healthy business but Apple's Xserves keep a low profile. Hmmm...

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