Most normal people would ask this question, but this is Apple. It is highly doubtful that the person that gave you the antenna requirements knows why either. You would probably get the following "make it a stainless steel strip on the order of x dimensions and a structural part of the phone". Again, that is a guess, but I doubt anyone as low level as an engineer would have known that it would be an exposed design element. I read that employees want to know as little as possible. That way, if there is a leak, they can rightfully claim ignorance. I guess when it gets right down to it, as an engineer, I'm just hopeful that a fellow engineer wouldn't be so naive to think there wouldn't be problems with this. That is why I don't believe this problem is engineering driven from the bottom, thus more engineers or different "talented" engineers is the answer. It is obviously driven from the top either a process problem (keeping design teams separate) or a cultural problem (ignoring sound engineering advice).
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Disclaimer: I am an engineer (electrical test, in fact) so I'm a bit biased. But from the brief insights that we can get about the Apple development process, Jobs loves to keep different parts of the organization completely oblivious from each other. My guess is that the actual antenna engineers never had knowledge of the final design of the phone. The process guys designing the machining to make the external antenna probably didn't know they were making antennas. The only people that probably knew the whole picture was Jobs, Ive, and the usual group that is in that iPhone 4 video shown during the keynote.
If statistically it is shown to be a huge problem as such to trigger a recall, the board should do its job and hold one someone in this high level team responsible. Obviously, it is a cultural thing with Jobs. He loves to get feedback of what is possible from the engineering staff and then ignore it. For example, the Mac Mini. He famously asked what was the smallest computer they could build at the time. He got feedback and then said make it 1" smaller in each dimension. Sometimes it works. I have done some of my best work for people who were similar, just unflinching in their demands. It is gratifying to complete such a project. However, this time taking industrial design over engineering backfired, and big time. Apple has been inching towards this day for a long time. For example, why no strain relief on the old Macbook MagSafe connectors? Aluminum backs on the original iPhone? I'm hopeful that this episode shakes up the culture and process a little bit. Enough to be cautious when necessary, but not to stifle their crazy industrial design creativity either.
I have been thinking the same thing. This is from working as a manufacturing engineer for a consumer device company in the past. For HP to have hit the June ship/in store date, they would have started full production for a couple of weeks. In fact, they probably have been running manufacturing samples for a month at least. Contracts with supplies have long been done and parts arriving at the factory. A move to WebOS would be at the end of the year at the earliest, unless Palm had something in the pipeline ready to go and just didn't have the money to get it out. But a request to delay suppliers that long would incur some serious penalties. Remember, suppliers have limited floor space as well and may have turned business down for HP. The HP slate component lines are supposedly ready and staffed. Not to mention the price of tossing testers and fixtures.
Not giving it a chance would be such as ugly situation on so many fronts. Top level: Steve Ballmer demoed this thing at their biggest keynote. HP would never get another keynote mention again, ever. Manufacturing level: Contract manufacturers and suppliers are irate and will turn the screws on HP when the WebOS tablet is quoted. Unless HP thinks that releasing this product would truly poison the well for future WebOS tablets, at this late stage, I don't see how they don't release something - quietly. At least save face and tell everyone, "Oh well, we tried and it failed. Let's go in a different direction."
Agreed, I don't understand this thought process going around the web and this story that MS is protecting HTC from Apple. MS saw what Apple saw, HTC was the lowest hanging fruit of the OEMs. Now, if WinMo7 wins, MS wins. If Andriod wins, MS wins. There was always a question of how MS was going to compete against free. Well, that was answered. An OEM can either pay a license for WinMo7 from MS or get Android and pay a royalty to MS. Also, by settling, the infringing patents are not shown (unlike the rather ham handed move by Apple). FUD to other OEMs will do just fine, thank you.
Nice move MS. First you have two horses in this race. Second, did it without having show your infringing patents. Finally, somehow got thousands of idiots on the web to believe that you are the good guys and just a another soldier by your side in the battle against Apple. That last move is what impresses me the most. MS PR department has really come a long way since the '90s. Welcome back MS. You are your best when you are evil.