Apple Shake Up Shows That Tim Cook Is Leading Apple

When Tim Cook took over for Steve Jobs, we all knew he could run Apple what we didn’t know is if he could lead Apple. Yesterday’s shake up certainly says to the world: Tim Cook is leading Apple.

Scott Forstall has been at Apple a long time. He was at NeXT with Jobs, and that was his shield—his close relationship with Steve. So while you have to credit and laud Forstall for making iOS what it is today, that came at a price. Infighting and pushing Jobs’ skeuomorphism even while many of us are fully comfortable with a digital word, wasn’t going to cut it any longer in Cupertino. Tim Cook has probably seen the writing on the wall since iOS 5 and the Maps debacle was the last straw. Scott Forstall had to play in the sandbox with the rest of the time or leave. From Fortune, the NYT, and others we are getting a picture of that while Forstall might have been brilliant, the personal battles within Apple reached a point where Tim Cook needed to do something, or watch things start to unravel:

It is being said that Forstall didn’t get along with Jony Ive. The knighted designer won that battle. Apple named him the chief of all “human interface” on Monday. Reading between the lines, that means software in addition to hardware. Design lovers hated the paper “shredder” that Apple introduced with its Passbook product. Ive, a fan of minimalism, must have hated it too. Watch for Apple to kill it.[From Inside Apple’s major shakeup – Fortune Tech]

I also heard that Forstall refused to sign the letter apologizing for the mapping fiasco, sealing his fate at Apple. (He has worked for two companies in his career, both founded by Steve Jobs: Next and Apple. He’s also a big San Francisco Giants fan. Win some, lose some.) Seeing as Forstall oversaw and publicly demoed Siri and maps, we know at least that the Apple culture is intact: Forstall was the directly responsible individual, or DRI, on Siri and maps. Now he is gone. He will remain an advisor to Cook until “next year,” Apple said in a post-market news release. This is a formality intended to keep Forstall from ringing up Samsung. [From Inside Apple’s major shakeup – Fortune Tech]

Inside Apple, tension has brewed for years over the issue. Apple iOS SVP Scott Forstall is said to push for skeuomorphic design, while industrial designer Jony Ive and other Apple higher-ups are said to oppose the direction. “You could tell who did the product based on how much glitz was in the UI,” says one source intimately familiar with Apple’s design process.

But before Forstall, it was Steve Jobs who encouraged the skeuomorphic approach, some say. “iCal’s leather-stitching was literally based on a texture in his Gulfstream jet,” says the former senior UI designer. “There was lots of internal email among UI designers at Apple saying this was just embarrassing, just terrible.”[From Will Apple’s Tacky Software-Design Philosophy Cause A Revolt? | Co.Design: business + innovation + design]

For John Browett, this is Tim Cook’s “oops” move. John Browett came to Apple from a discount retailer and the ethos of cost cutting and better profits didn’t jive with Apple’s vision of the Apple Store as a “destination” and “experience”. I know the Apple Stores around Vancouver are cool places to go and hang out for a bit. Cutting employee hours and not putting the whole focus on doing something amazing, didn’t work. With Tim Cook seeing the mistake and taking action before things went off the rails, that shows leadership. You put the wrong player in the starting lineup and he doesn’t cut it, you pull him out.

Mr. Browett, who only recently was appointed head of the company’s retail operations, failed to fit in at Apple and made some mistakes. They included the faulty implementation of a new staffing formula that cut some employee hours too severely. [From Apple Executive Refused to Sign Maps Apology –]

The good thing is that early word from The Street (especially after the lack luster earnings report), is that analysts like the move—Analysts on Apple’s executive shakeup: Change is good | Apple – CNET News—which isn’t surprising, making a bold decision to have a unified team who can work together to meet the challenge that new competition brings (Surface and Android tablets might not be iPads, but they are getting interest and attention) is something analysts can back.

Let’s hope that we’ll see the fruits of these changes sooner rather than later. Maybe a fix for Maps. Maybe some Jony Ives styled icons in iOS 6.1 (iOS 7 for sure). All that aside one thing is clear: This is Tim Cook’s Apple and he’s leading it.

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