October 30, 2012
Politicians know that the best day to announce controversial news is on a Friday when people may not be looking. Of course, Apple is bolder than any politician could ever hope to be. Cupertino chose the day a hurricane hit the financial center of the U.S. to announce the biggest management shakeup in a generation. Just like Hurricane Sandy, the storm that CEO Tim Cook generated will be felt for a long time. Make no mistake. Scott Forstall and John Browett were both fired. If you don’t believe me, know that it took Apple 40 short minutes to update their management page. I’ve concluded that both exits were probably for the best. Many outside of Apple have told me that Browett, the now former head of retail, deserved at least one holiday quarter to get things right. Maybe this is true, but the former Dixon’s head was never well liked in Cupertino at any time during his short seven-month tenure. In other words, there was no goodwill to save him through at least January. For now, Cook will lead retail during which time a search for Browett’s successor will be done externally. With Forstall, you’ve got a somewhat different story. Unlike Browett, the former senior vice president of iOS software was at Apple for 15 years. During that time, he helped create iOS, which is available on 400 million devices around the world. Unfortunately, Forstall is also known for having a bad temper and not always being a team player. While these traits obviously worked with his mentor, Steve Jobs, it is obvious that Cook eventually grew tired of it. Reports such as this one indicate that Forstall’s demise came down to his refusal to admit publicly that iOS 6 maps sucked. Maybe this is true, maybe not. Regardless, the very public Maps fiasco was probably all that Cook could take. I also think that Forstall knew his days at Apple were numbered, especially since Jobs’ death in October 2011. In May, he sold 95 percent of his stake in Apple. That is a huge percentage to cash in, especially if you’re planning on staying around for a while. Forstall is now Cook’s “advisor,” and will be so until sometime next year. This is an arrangement that will keep Forstall from jumping to Samsung, Google, or Microsoft, at least in the short term. I actually don’t expect to see Forstall end up at one of these companies. Instead, I think that Forstall will create something new that is software-based that will play within the Apple ecosystem. Of course, I could be wrong. It is really too early to know what Forstall’s exit will mean for the company in the long-term. My bet is that Craig Federighi, who will now head both the OS X and iOS divisions, will be tasked first with determining whether both operating systems should be merged. In the meantime, Jony Ive, the company’s famous senior vice president of industrial design will bring his skills to the software side. In doing so, I expect Ive’s input to eventually lead to the end of digital skeuomorphs in the company's app designs. As Ive said in May, the best of Apple is yet to come. While it will take some time to see what these management changes will mean to the company going forward, one thing is for sure: Tim Cook is now fully in charge at Apple, for better or worse.