Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Apple’s Mobile Ad Head Andy Miller Departs for Highland Capital

Andy Miller (pictured here), the high-profile VP of mobile advertising at Apple, is planning on leaving the company, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources said Miller — who sold Quattro Wireless, the mobile advertising company he co-founded in 2006, to Apple in early 2010 for $275 million — will become a general partner at Highland Capital, the Boston-based venture firm that had funded Quattro.

Apple will search for a replacement for Miller, whose staff was told of the impending departure today.

Since Miller got to Apple, he has reported directly to its CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, who noted after the acquisition:

“We tried to buy a company named AdMob, but Google came in and snatched them from us. So we bought Quattro, and they are teaching us. We are making ads that are different than anything I’ve ever seen.”

But Apple’s ad aspirations have been a bit of a bumpy road, as the company has tried to fine-tune the offering, even as competition — from Google, Facebook and a range of start-ups — has increased in the fast-growing space.

Not surprisingly, Apple shut down Quattro in favor of its much ballyhooed iAd platform a year ago. Via iAd, Apple has promised to serve up interactive rich-media ads on iPhone and iPod touch apps.

Some marketers balked at Apple’s tight control over iAds and their high prices, but recently the company has tried to give Madison Avenue more flexibility.

That’s because, while still small, mobile advertising will be a huge market. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported: “Marketers spent just $743.1 million on mobile ads in the U.S. in 2010, up 79% from $416 million in 2009, according to research firm eMarketer.”

At Highland, Miller will be working on a range of digital investments from its Silicon Valley office, sources said, and not just in the mobile space.

He has a varied background: Miller worked for mobile content company m-Qube and also WatchPoint Media, an interactive television start-up.

I have contacted Apple PR for a comment, but have not yet heard back.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald