Right in the middle of a hurricane and a Google Nexus announcement, Apple let loose with a major management overhaul. A bit of bad news may ultimately turn out to be good news for Apple fans and the tech world.
Here’s the whole story. Apple announced a new iPhone and iOS 6 in September. Unfortunately, Apple also replaced Google’s Maps app with its own mapping application. Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS, took the stage, as usual, and among other new iOS 6 features, he showed off the Maps app. Everyone thought it was awesome, and it look like Apple scored another win against rivals.
Days later, it became apparent that the Maps app had a lot of rendering problems, and the complaints—and jokes—started to flow. Apple was forced to issue an apology and recommend other mapping solutions, like Nokia, Bing or Google Maps until it could fix the glitches.
This was one of the rare times the world saw Apple release a product without delivering the usual polished Apple quality. (There was that antenna signal problem with iPhone 4.) A month later, Apple announced a new line of products: iPad 4, iPad Mini, iMac, Mac Mini and a 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display. Noticeable by his absence was Scott Forstall, and shortly after the release event there were rumors of his departure.
Scott Forstall was an important face at Apple and very close to Steve Jobs—so close that it was rumored he would be the next CEO. When Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, he brought Forstall with him from NeXT. At Apple, Forstall was responsible for leading the team that created the iOS and also the Mac OS X operating system. When iOS was released 5 years ago, along with the first iPhone, it was instantly a huge success. But over the years, users started to complain that iOS wasn’t getting any major user interface improvements, and some blamed Forstall for this, which only escalated with the Maps app fiasco.
Forstall will leave company “next year” and will advise CEO Tim Cook until then, Apple confirmed in a press release.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Forstall was asked to leave after he refused to sign a letter apologizing for the Maps app problems, according to people familiar with the matter. It appears that although Forstall’s team knew there were a lot of unresolved issues with the mapping service, he decided to announce it anyway. (John Browett, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, is also leaving. Browett cut staff at Apple stores soon after he joined the company in April, a move that was reversed, with Browett’s apologies, in August, the Los Angeles Times reported.)
For Apple and their customers this is major news. Now is the perfect time to revamp the way iOS works and bring in some needed improvements. We’ve seen what Google can do with Android, starting with version 4.0, and others are joining this party: Nokia, Microsoft, HTC, Blackberry.
That’s not all. Apple also announced that it would give more responsibility to Jony Ive, who will “provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company,” in addition to running Industrial Design. Just think, if Apple devices are already this gorgeous, imagine how brilliantly the apps and interface could shine under the eye of Jony Ive. This will be awesome.
Eddy Cue, the executive responsible for Apple’s digital storefronts, will now take on responsibility for the Maps and Siri departments. Craig Federighi will lead both iOS and OS X, taking over Forstall’s duties, while Bob Mansfield will remain at Apple for another two years and will lead Technologies, a group combining all wireless teams in the company as well as the semiconductor teams.