Apple last week delivered a bombshell when it announced that long-time Apple veteran Scott Forstall would be leaving the company in 2012. The impetus for Forstall's departure, or perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back, was Forstall's refusal to sign off on an apology letter to Apple consumers over the deficiencies in iOS 6 Maps. When the apology letter was published, only Apple CEO Tim Cook's name appeared at the bottom.
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And so, just like that, Forstall is out and Apple's Craig Federighi - who currently heads up Apple's OS X group - will assume responsibility for the future development of iOS.
Going back to Forstall, his refusal to sign Apple's apology letter may have been the final straw, but trouble between Forstall and other Apple executives had reportedly been brewing for quite some time. Specifically, Forstall had a confrontational management style that didn't sit will with other Apple executives. In a Bloomberg profile on Forstall from a few months ago, it was reported that the tension between Forstall and other Apple execs was so tangible that some wouldn't meet with Forstall unless Tim Cook was there to keep things under control. The report also describes Forstall as "the most divisive member of Apple's executive team."
Building on that, Bloomberg added some more color to its initial report regarding Forstall's intransigence. Forstall, the report claims, wasn't terribly keen on close collaboration with other groups within Apple and refused to attend design meetings spearheaded by Jony Ive. And driving the point home, the report claims that Ive and Forstall were rarely ever in the same room together.
Clashes between Forstall and other senior managers since Jobs’s death a year ago had made it harder for teams to work together, threatening Apple’s ability to keep producing the kinds of electronics that made it the most valuable company.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was able to keep the executives’ long-simmering tension under control. Cook made the final decision to revamp management after Forstall refused to sign a public apology for the mishandling of mapping software, people with knowledge of the matter said...
Effective as both executives are, Ive and Forstall didn’t get along, said former Apple employees. Just as Forstall didn’t go to Ive’s product-review meetings, neither did Ive attend Forstall’s, one of these people said.
Again, the tension between Forstall and others began to pick up steam in the months following Jobs' passing. With various executives campaigning for greater control and influence, Forstall's team was "particularly insular" and showed little to no interest in making improvements in iOS that would benefit the products from other teams within Apple. Perhaps it's quite telling that when news of Forstall's departure made the rounds at Apple, many on the iOS software team reportedly reacted with quiet jubilation.
Bloomberg also quotes 21 year Apple veteran Brett Halle - who worked on operating systems while at Apple - as saying that Scott wasn't particularly interested in "melding" iOS and OS X together. "He just didn't care," said Halle.
As for Forstall, we've yet to hear his side of the story, but in the wake of his impending termination it's been reported that he was extremely frustrated with things at Apple in the post-Jobs era because there was no "decider" to deliver executive decisions on divisive issues. Further, anonymous sources from within Apple's iOS software team told the Wall Street Journal that Forstall would complain that they weren't "working on enough big ideas in mobile software."
All that said, there's simply no denying the immeasurable impact that Forstall had during his tenure at Apple. He was the man who spearheaded the ambitious release of OS X 10.5 Leopard, and more importantly, he was the man in charge of Apple's iOS efforts. It's not an exaggeration to claim the iPhone may have never come to be without Forstall's innumerable and invaluable contributions to both the software itself and his overall management of the entire iOS development process. Indeed, Bloomberg points out that Forstall's supporters have long admired his "ability to manage massive technical complexity while pushing his team to innovate." On the other hand, Forstall detractors, the report points out, claim that Forstall was "overly concerned with empire building and pushing through favored features while blocking other teams’ ideas."
So, love him or hate him, one thing is clear - an environment where senior Apple executives can't even be in the same room as each other just isn't healthy and doesn't lend itself to great new products. As the backstory behind Apple's recent executive shakeup becomes more clear, it's apparent that Apple CEO Tim Cook had to effectively choose between Forstall and Ive.
And with Forstall out and Ive now in as the head of the human interface group at Apple, and Eddy Cue in charge of both Siri and Maps, you better believe that all eyes will be on iOS 7.