Apple iOS chief Scott Forstall to depart company after Maps gaffe

By Peter Gothard
30 Oct 2012 View Comments
scott-forstall

Apple has announced that two senior executives are to leave the company, as senior vice-president of iOS Scott Forstall (pictured) and senior vice-president of retail John Browett part ways with the technology giant.

It is not yet clear whether the departures were voluntary on the part of the executives or not.

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Forstall was closely linked with iOS Maps, showing off the feature personally at the iPhone 5's launch last month, and his departure from Apple seems to mirror the "antennagate" issues surrounding the iPhone 4 launch, when senior VP of devices hardware engineering Mark Papermaster also left the company.

As the leading light in iOS development, Forstall has often been credited with formulating the original architecture of the Mac OS X operating system, as well as its Aqua UI. Legacies of these designs can still be seen in iOS, but it's Forstall's involvement in the continuing development of iOS that has been suspected to be at the root of problems arising between hardware and software designers at the company.

Though Forstall came on board at Apple in 1997, when it acquired computer company NeXT and, with it, Steve Jobs, it has been widely reported that Forstall has been clashing with Apple staff since Jobs' passing.

Being described as difficult to work with, and a proponent of an ornamental design ethic known as skeuomorphism – which at its heart involves making the new look old and familiar – Forstall's ideas have apparently been at increasing odds with the clean, minimalist designs of lead designer Sir Jonathan Ive.

Ive, in fact, is due to take control of the mobile software arm of Apple after Forstall leaves some time in early 2013.

John Browett – who joined Apple only six months ago – was CEO Tim Cook's first major appointment, joining from Dixons in the UK with the specific task of driving global expansion of the firm's retail stores.

With a £36m "golden hello", Browett has apparently seen success in the role, with sales growing from $4bn to $4.2bn between the third and fourth quarters.

Aside from Ive's extra duties in human interfaces, Apple has also said that execs Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will take on more responsibilities.

Ajay Bhalla, professor of global innovation management at London's Cass Business School, said: "This is the first serious management shakeup at Apple. Apple is no longer in the comfort zone it was a year ago. The euphoria surrounding the iPhone 5 is fizzing away. With Google on the offensive – launching Nexus 4 and 10 at half the price of Apple products – Apple has just found itself in a tight spot.

"How long can Apple command premium pricing for its devices?" asked Bhalla. "This depends on the perfection of iOS on its devices, and on being a lead innovator in customer experience. Tim Cook simply cannot afford to let Apple's magical image disintegrate in the market. With Google and Samsung on the offensive along with Microsoft's determination to reinvent itself as a hardware provider, it may yet be time for Apple to think of new categories and new customer experience."

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