Yesterday evening my wife and I were at a wedding. In between the dinner buffet and the cutting of the cake, I pulled out my iPhone to check Twitter as I do. And that’s where I was when I first heard about the massive news of Scott Forstall’s departure from Apple and the distribution of his responsibilities to his former executive peers.
I was shocked. What a massive announcement. What a massive shift within Apple’s leadership.
Leaning over to Anna, I say: “Scott Forstall just got fired from Apple.”
“Who’s that?” She asks.
“The guy in charge of iPhone software.”
“Oh, wow. Was it because of Maps?”
It just so happened that our table had been having an on-and-off conversation about the sometimes-maddening state of Maps on iOS. Of the 4 couples at our table, 3 of them (including Anna and myself) had been burned by Maps on the way to the wedding. Some of us had arrived late due to bad directions leading while one of the couples had missed the ceremony altogether.
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John Gruber wrote an excellent analysis, connecting many of the dots from what we do know and reading in to Apple’s press release from yesterday:
Thinking about it some more, though, and considering what I know about Forstall’s reputation within the company, I think that headline, euphemistic though it is, tells the plain truth: Forstall was an obstacle to collaboration within the company. Now he’s gone, and his responsibilities are being divided between four men who foster collaboration: Ive, Mansfield, Cue, and Federighi.
And Matt Drance wrote one of the best articles I’ve read yet:
Not only is this a profound increase in responsibility for all three of these top executives, it’s a profound change in Apple’s organization going as far back as I can remember. There’s a long-standing pattern of separating watershed products important to the company’s future. The Mac and Apple teams. Mac OS X and Classic. The iPod division. iOS and Mac OS X. Suddenly, Tim Cook has pulled the reins in. Federighi owns software. Ive owns design. Cue owns services. Period.
In a time when their product lineup is growing, the executive team driving those products is shrinking. This is huge.
As Apple stated in their press release and as Gruber reiterated, this was a move to increase collaboration within the company. But would the decision to fire Forstall have come even at the cost of future products? I doubt it. The executive team believes that with Forstall now out of the picture, their day-to-day lives will have less drama, and the end result will be better products.
As I’ve been thinking on this news for nearly 24 hours I keep coming back to 2 sentiments I think a lot of us may share: (a) gratitude for the massive role that Forstall has played in making iOS the world-class operating system it is today; and (b) excitement for what’s in store now that Ive, Federighi, and Cue are collaborating on it.