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Apple's reorganization is about more than replacing Scott Forstall
In the roughly 24 hours since Apple announced a major restructuring of its executive management, virtually every technology publication and much of mainstream media has weighed in on the change. Most have focused on the decision to remove Scott Forstall as Senior VP of iOS, a decision that is largely seen as benefiting Apple.
But the reorg actually has much broader effects. In particular, removing iOS from Forstall's control, and putting it under Mac OSX leader Craig Federighi, could have important implications for how enterprises use both products.
There are a range of reasons believed to be involved in the decision to remove Forstall from his post (though he will remain with the company as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook).
- Forstall allegedly refused to sign a letter to Apple customers apologizing for the recent iOS 6 Maps debacle -- Apple's CEO Tim Cook signed an apology instead. Leading iOS meant that Forstall had ultimate responsibility for Maps (and iOS 6 in general) as well as Siri. Both features have been major embarrassments for Apple, largely because the company portrayed them as being much more polished solutions than they actually are.
- Forstall was reportedly a fiery individual who was difficult to work with -- so difficult in fact that Apple's industrial design guru Jony Ive refused to sit in meetings with him.
- Forstall has also reportedly been trying to consolidate his power and influence at Apple in the year since Steve Job passed away. He was a long-time associate of Jobs and had worked with him at NeXT, the computer company Jobs founded after leaving Apple that was also his vehicle to return when Apple purchased NeXT in 1997. It's believed that his long association with Jobs was one reason that his brand of fiery and divisive leadership was tolerated during his years at Apple.
Perhaps, however, the simplest and most major reason for the change has been the assessment of Daring Fireball's John Gruber:
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.
The reasons that Forstall was fired are major parts of the story. So is the presumed reason that he will remain a paid Apple employee until some time next year. As Cult of Mac's Leander Kahney pointed out, California law prevents enforcement of non-compete clauses in employee contracts -- that means that once Forstall leaves Apple, he is free to work for any technology company that he chooses. Given all of his experience at Apple, it's easy to assume that any company would be thrilled to hire him as soon as possible. Keeping him on the Apple payroll for as long as possible is therefore essential.
Beyond the story of Forstall's downfall at Apple, however, there's the question of what the reshuffled management means for the company going forward. That may turn out to be the far bigger story here.
Apple's press release seems to make it clear that this reorganization is about more than just axing Forstall. It implies that the company is looking to leverage its resources across different product lines and disciplines. For a company that is focused on design, the human experience of its products, and a compulsive desire to push technology forward, enabling internal collaboration and technical cross-pollination is a key to furthering those lofty ambitions.
Thus the real story becomes how will Ive's vision translate across all levels of a product's design? How will Eddy Cue deliver a new level of value, one that's more about context than data itself, across iCloud, Maps, Siri, and the combined iTunes-based storefronts (iTunes, iBooks, iOS apps, Mac apps)? How will combining all the underlying technologies -- microprocessors, cellular antennas, and wireless networking -- into a single overarching group under Bob Mansfield help Apple to create technological advantages that other companies might not be able to duplicate?