Why Firing Forstall was a Mistake

Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of iOS division of Apple, and the speculated heir-apparent to the Apple throne, was fired from Apple last Monday. While there are many articles speculating and analysing exactly what went down, I came up with a list of reasons why this move is a big mistake for Apple.  

1.       1. Scott Forstall invented iOS.

iPhone is only as good as the OS that is powering it. Sir Jony Ive’s designs did not bring the success that the iPhone enjoys today. Sure, we make a lot of deal on what the next generation iPhone hardware will be like, but recall the 2007 Stevenote when the iPhone was first introduced. It wasn’t the hardware that wowed the crowd, but the software that was running on it. Out of all the other smartphones in the world, iOS was the key distinguisher of what an iPhone is and what it is capable of. If Apple’s philosophy is to make the hardware disappear and let the software dictate the experience, firing Forstall is a contradictory move. No one else in Apple is more knowledgeable about iOS than Scott Forstall.

2.      2.  Jony Ive to oversee software UI is a mistake

As great as Ive is at hardware design, he is no expert at software. Approaches used for hardware design and software UI design are completely different. Getting rid of the software expert to be replaced by a hardware guy should not require an explanation as to why this is a bad idea.

3.       3. Losing talent over Corporate Politics

It is no longer news that Scott Forstall wasn’t very popular amongst the Apple executives. To put this into perspective, Bob Mansfield, who announced his retirement plans earlier this year, decided to cancel his retirement when Forstall was shown the way to the door. According to AllThingsD,

“It wasn’t a him-or-me situation … But, put it this way, I think Bob was much more willing to commit to two more years once he knew Scott was on his way out.”

While Forstall’s abrasive and confrontational management style may cause internal conflicts, losing a great talent over corporate politics is a low, especially for Apple, a company that supposedly puts a great emphasis on thinking different. This brings us up to the third and the last point:

4.       4. Think Different

While not necessarily a complement, Scott Forstall’s style resembles that of late Steve Jobs greatly. This is not a surprise, as Forstall was a protégé of Jobs, and was most likely the most favoured by Jobs as well. Forstall’s skeumorphic design tastes are often cited as the reason why he was let go. This is also a style that Jobs himself encouraged. With Steve Jobs gone, Tim Cook seems to be trying hard to get past the Jobsian Era and to artificially mark Apple as his territory. The fact that he signed an apology letter for the Apple Maps debacle exemplifies this. Under Jobs, no such apology would have been issues. The rumour has it that Forstall refused to sign the letter when asked to, which ultimately got him kicked off the ship. If true, this is the behaviour that has defined Apple over the years under Jobs. The apology being issued in the first place shows that Cook is showing us that things will be done in his way from now on, and take Apple in a different direction. All this leads to is a group of Apple execs that all think alike under Cook’s Apple, at least in design ideas. Forstall, the only one who enjoyed using skeumorphic design, being fired means that there is no diversity in thought in the circle of Apple execs. While this may cause less internal conflicts, this also means that there will be less variety in ideas. Apple politics is no longer a democracy. It is a Cook monarchy, with a bunch of employees unable to think different. 

 

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  1. I completley agree woth everything you wrote, Tim cook has made a big mistake and I am eefusing to upgrade my iPhone to iOS 7

  1. November 10th, 2012

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