First things first – who are these departing executives? One is John Browett, who joined the company from Dixons Retail in April of this year to become Apple’s Head of Retail. Yes, you read that right – he’s departing after only a few months at Apple. Apple has reportedly asked him to leave because of an “accident” where many Apple Store employees’ hours were cut leading to fears of layoffs. The search for a new Retail chief is in progress, but the Retail team is currently reporting straight to Tim Cook.
The other – and, I would argue, more major departure is Scott Forstall. Forstall has led iOS (the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad‘s operating system) for many years. He is one of the few executives at Apple who apparently shared Steve Jobs‘ visions. He was reportedly asked to leave for two reasons: 1) he wouldn’t sign the iOS Maps apology, and 2) tensions between him and other executives have reportedly been building for quite some time now.
Details on the first reason? Here you go: when Apple released the Maps apology, no one knew that Scott Forstall had refused to sign it, so was Apple making it a bigger deal than it needs to be? Possibly, although, if you read one of my recent columns, you’ll remember how I said that Apple cares about its customers very much. So that means, while the public didn’t know, Forstall wasn’t, you could say, “entering into the spirit of the game”.
But what about the other reason? Well, at Apple, collaboration is important. (Actually, the new position on the executive team introduce even more collaboration – see below.) So if Scott Forstall can’t work with his peers, he probably isn’t a good fit for Apple in that sense.
One more major problem for Apple – if Forstall goes to work for Google, Android could develop so far as to become a bigger threat to iOS.
So does his departure signal an end to Apple’s momentum? To answer that, let’s take a look at who’s going to take over Forstall’s team. Jonathan Ive, who brought the company back in its dark ages with his design for the “Bondi Blue” iMac, and who’s been leading Industrial Design very successfully, will add to his list of responsibilities Human Interface. What’s that? Human Interface is the area in charge of how users interact with technology.
Craig Federighi, previously in charge of just Mac OS X (the operating system for Macintosh), will also lead iOS, making him one of the most important people at Apple.
While this is a most excellent and experienced team, can they lead iOS as well as Forstall did? Only time will tell. What will help is that, while Forstall will be leaving next year, he will serve as an advisor for Tim Cook until then, helping the team develop iOS like he would have.
But, there’s more. Bob Mansfield, who used to lead Hardware Engineering, had recently decided to retire. Then, in the wake of this shakeup, he decided to come back to Apple for two years and lead a new group called “Technologies”. That includes things like wireless chips and semiconductors. Considering his success at Hardware Engineering, this is a great spot for him.
Speaking of Hardware Engineering, former head of iPad Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio will lead the department. In his former job, he was instrumental in creating the behind-the-scenes workings of the iPad, and will probably do very well in his new job.