Apple is determined not to allow the year to end quietly. On heels of its iPad Mini and iPad 4 announcements, the company has announced big changes in its executive leadership. Will the changes be enough to keep Apple on top post Steve Jobs?
A Forstall Problem
Yesterday while most of us were compulsively watching news coverage and social media streams about the storm wreaking havoc on the east coast, Apple’s leadership was doing a little deconstruction of its own. The company announced major changes in its senior management team that, according to Apple,
will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams.”
“Even more collaboration” is likely code for, “if we don’t get rid of Scott Forstall soon, we are going to have &#$! employee mutiny on our hands.”
Scott Forstall, iOS SVP, will act as an advisor to the CEO until the end of the year, then he will leave. This isn’t the only change Apple announced on Monday, but it is certainly the news generating the most commentary. Forstall was a 15 year Apple veteran that led the development of iOS and is often described as smart and talented with a great eye for design. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and rose quickly through the ranks. Many believed he would eventually lead the company. There was one problem with that prediction -- Forstall himself.
Although there is no official statement that explains why Forstall is leaving, it’s not too hard to come up with a reason. Problems with Forstall began long before Monday’s restructuring. It seems that almost everyone at Apple hated Forstall. He had a different design vision than other leaders. He inserted himself into decisions outside of his role. He was uncooperative and obnoxious to peers. To top it all off, Forstall often exploited his close relationship with the late Jobs to impose his will. However, it was likely Forstall’s alleged refusal to apologize for the recent debacle with Apple’s mapping software in iOS 6 that finally crossed the line.
Other Apple Management Changes
Forstall isn’t the only problem executive packing up his office. John Browett who joined Apple 10 months ago as the head of retail operations is also on his way out. Browett, who was one of Tim Cook’s first major hires as CEO, made the ill-advised decision to cut the hours of retail employees to boost profits. The change was reserved after only a few weeks, but it likely marked the beginning of the end for Browett.
Monday wasn’t all about departures. Head of design, Jony Ive, and head of hardware engineering, Bob Mansfield, received new responsibilities. Ive will now be responsible for all interface design. Mansfield, who announced he was retiring last June but was enticed to stick around a bit longer, will lead a new unit responsible for all of Apple’s wireless initiatives. The changes also gave Eddy Cue, who has led Apple’s digital storefronts, responsibility for Maps and Siri. Craig Federighi, who previously served as VP of Mac software, is picking up most of Forstall’s old duties and will now be in charge of both iOS and OS X.
What This Means for Apple
Although industry observers are surprised, most are positive about the changes. Several key executives are still in place to provide continuity, and the departure of Forstall could mean a more cohesive management team. Apple continues to dominate the mobile market, but as we’ve observed with RIM, that could change at any moment. The company needs a well performing team in place to move it forward -- not a single big personality.