Bob Mansfield: Goodbye Executive VP, Hello Secret Projects Man

Bob Mansfield now does the secret project thing at AppleBob Mansfield quietly disappeared from Apple's executive team webpage on Sunday and the company said it's because he'll be working on "special projects" instead. Mr. Mansfield had been serving as the company's Senior Vice President of Technologies, but now it looks like he may be throwing his weight behind secret new products.

Mr. Mansfield took on the role of Senior VP of Tech in August 2012 after leaving, and then returning to, Apple. At the time he committed to stay with the company for two more years. Now, only a year later, his job seems to be changing significantly.

In a statement to AllThingsD, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, "Bob is no longer going to be on Apple's executive team, but will remain at Apple working on special projects reporting to Tim," meaning company CEO Tim Cook.

Mr. Mansfield retired from Apple in June 2012 with the title Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering and was replaced by then Vice President of iPad Hardware Engineering Dan Ricco. Two months later Apple announced that Mr. Mansfield was staying after all and would be in charge of the semiconductor and wireless technology teams.

Following Mr. Mansfield's change of heart, Apple announced that Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall was leaving the company. Rumors had been circulating that the two men routinely clashed and that Mr. Mansfield was swayed to stay once he knew Mr. Forstall was out the door.

Saying Mr. Mansfield will be reporting directly to Tim Cook on special projects has a familiar ring to it because that's exactly what the company said when it hired Yves St Laurent's Paul Deneve in July of this year. With Mr. Mansfield taking on the same mysterious roll, it looks like Apple is putting together a top-notch team to work on secret projects -- and it's easy to assume that "secret" really means "wearable technology."

Reports have already claimed Mr. Mansfield had been focusing on wearable tech, and Mr. Deneve has some serious experience in the high-end fashion world. He also has a history with Apple because he was also the company's senior marketing and sales manager in Europe during the 1990s.

Assuming the two men are working together, Apple has the beginnings of a crack team that could come up with some amazing products, which is exactly what the company needs if it wants to disrupt the wearable tech market much like it did with the portable media player, smartphone, and tablet markets.

Apple isn't saying what projects M. Mansfield or Mr. Deneve are working on, but if it is wearable tech-related, there's a good chance we'll be seeing more than just a high tech watch that talks with our iPhones coming out of Cupertino.