Apple has fired two key executives, software leader Scott Forstall and retail head John Browett, after major missteps.
Most notable is the departure of Forstall, who ran software development and according to multiple reports was a protege of the late Steve Jobs and was being groomed for a larger role. Forstall led a team that designed the Maps apps in iOS 6 that was intended to replace Google’s Maps app and so eliminate the software of Apple’s primary competitor from its devices. When the Apple Maps app was found to be faulty and roundly criticized by consumers, Forstall refused to sign an apology issued by Apple.
“In deciding how to manage the crisis, Mr. Forstall argued that the company could address the outcry without apologizing, as Apple had done when it shipped iPhones with faulty antennas a few years ago,” The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 29, citing people familiar with the matter.
Ultimately, CEO Tim Cook signed the apology, which began, “At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”
According to The New York Times, Forstall was known to be “ambitious and divisive” and created friction between top Apple staff after the death of Steve Jobs, who had acted as a mediator of sorts.
Regarding the effect of Forstall’s departure, GigaOm reported that a source quipped, “There are a lot of people going for celebratory drinks, even if there is a little bit of doubt about their roles in the future.”
Apple issued a statement Oct. 29 saying that changes in its executive management “will encourage even more collaboration between the company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams.”
Apple also announced that Jony Ive, leader of its Industrial Design team, will now also be in charge of “leadership and direction” for Human Interface (HI) across the company.
“His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade,” Apple said in its statement.
Additionally, Eddy Cue, a vice president of iTunes, will take on the responsibility of overseeing Siri and Maps, a move that will put all Apple’s online services into one group; Craig Federighi will lead both the iOS and OS X teams; and Bob Mansfield will lead a new group called Technologies that will combine all of Apple’s wireless teams, including its semiconductor teams, into one organization. Apple said that it expects the latter will foster “innovation in this area at an even higher level.”
The second staff member being let go is John Browett, who was hired from the U.K. big-box retailer Dixons Retail five months ago. “The transition was rocky from the start, compounded by the new staffing formula that cut some employee hours,” reported The Journal. According to other reports, Apple also cut significant numbers of positions in the U.K.—a move that was criticized in the media, given the revenue Apple brings in.
One analyst told The Times that Browett was never a great fit for Apple, given his experience at Dixon’s, which is “more down-market” than the Apple retail experience.
Apple, in its statement, simply said that Browett was “leaving,” and that search for a new head of Retail is under way. In the interim, the Retail team will report directly to Cook.