Apple Placing a premium on volatility

Innovation is a Fight

Apple is eventually doomed. Yes, the most valuable company on the planet will slowly fade into stagnant mediocrity. It will be replaced by something that they will not predict and they will not see coming. This horrifically efficient culling is a fact of life in technology because it is an industry populated by a demographic intent not on building a better mousetrap, but who avidly ask, “Why the hell do we need mousetraps?”

Apple’s doom will start quietly and I doubt anyone can predict how it will actually begin. It will be historians who, decades from now, will easily pin its demise to a single event that will appear obvious given years of quantifiable insight. And it will only be “obvious” because the real details will have been twisted, clouded, or forgotten entirely, so it will all seem clearer, faster, and simpler. Their explanation will start with the passing of Steve Jobs, and they will draw a clear line to a subsequent event of significance and will say, “Here. This is it. This is when it began.”

Executive rearrangements have been going on at Apple for years. Remember Mark Papermaster? Avie Tevanian? Jon Rubinstein? Steve Sakoman? Tony Fadell? Sina Tamaddon? Bertrand Serlet? Fred Anderson? Nancy Heinen? There’s likely a compelling departure backstory for all of these key players, but the sheer length of this incomplete list gives some perspective to the recent announcement regarding Scott Forstall and John Browett – no big deal. Happens all the time.

Maybe.

Like Papermaster before him, all the signals point to the fact that Browett was not a cultural fit, which is Apple-speak for the organism having an intense allergic reaction to his arrival. Forstall, however, was old school. In my years at Apple, the Caffe Macs chatter about Forstall was that he was the only legit successor to Jobs because he displayed a variety of Jobsian characteristics. Namely:

  • He was an asshole, but…
  • Success seemed to surround him, and…
  • No one was quite sure about the secret recipe to achieve this success.

While I’d continued to hear about the disdain amongst the executive ranks about Forstall after I left Apple, I was still shocked about his departure, because while he was in no way Steve Jobs, he was the best approximation of Steve Jobs that Apple had left. You came to expect a certain amount of disruption around him because that’s how business was done at Apple – it was well-managed internal warfare. Innovation is not born out out of a committee; innovation is a fight. It’s messy, people die, but when the battle is over, something unimaginably significant has been achieved.

With Forstall’s departure, I believe his former lieutenants have been distributed to Bob Mansfield, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, and Craig Federighi. While there is no doubt in my mind that these are talented and qualified leaders, are they disruptive? Are they incentivized as such? Because from where I’m standing, the guy in charge is possibly the most talented operational leader on the planet. And an operational leader’s job is ferret out and exterminate all things that make their world less predictable and measured.

The word that worried me the most in the press release was in the first sentence. The word was “collaboration”. Close your eyes and imagine a meeting with Steve Jobs. Imagine how it proceeds and how decisions are made. Does the word collaboration ever enter your mind? Not mine. I’m just sitting there on pins and needles waiting for the guy to explode and rip us to shreds because we phoned it in on a seemingly unimportant icon.

As someone who spends much of his time figuring out how to get teams to work together, the premium I’m placing on volatility might seem odd. I believe Apple benefits greatly from having a large, stable operational team that consistently and steadily gets shit done,  but I also believe that in order to maintain its edge Apple needs a group of disruptors.

Love him or hate him, Scott Forstall’s departure makes Apple a more stable company, and I wonder if that is how it begins.

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59 Responses

  1. Justin 2 years ago

    As Gruber tirelessly points out, Apple products (in hindsight) benefit much more from a process of iterative improvement than from disruptive genius. Was Apple’s success because Jobs was engaging in creative disruption, or was it because in doing so, he made a loud target that let Tim Cook work quietly in the background building that amazing supply chain?

  2. From a high level perspective.. I agree that it seems near-inevitable that Apple will turn into a dead god, like the many dead gods it took pride in fighting from day one. But (as weak as this sounds) that’s just how it goes, isn’t it? The only thing I would worry about is not lack of creativity – something new will emerge to fill that gap, hopefully; I kind of keep looking towards platforms like Kickstarter – but the fact that they will stop making quality products. A 2007 MBP is still a high quality product today.

    Other than that.. I’m filled with curiosity and some weird sort of positive anxiety.

    How cheesy exactly would it be to quote a certain CEO saying that death is the single best invention of life, as it clears away the old to make way for the new? Very, very cheesy, probably.

  3. Scruff 2 years ago

    If we are talking disruption, _if_ the rumours were true and Scott and Jony Ive had gotten to the point where they could not work together at all, which way would you have pushed if you were Tim Cook? Can you imagine the outcry if Jony had left instead of Scott?

    Same with Bob Mansfield – a quiet achiever who revolutionised Apple’s hardware, a man I have huge respect for, comes back from retirement after Scott’s internal announcement (again, all speculation at this point)

    There’s disruption, and then there’s chaos. I think Scott is an amazingly talented fella, brilliant, innovative – but sometimes a point comes where that disruption comes at too higher price.

  4. Excellent point!

    I often end up in the role of disruptor / change agent at companies I work for and in one the VP of R&D said something to me that really stuck: “you’re a change agent and that’s great, we need that here. However, be sure to keep it positive. You have been so far and that’s why I’m willing to let you run. But don’t forget: A change-agent who creates change in a negative way is too damaging to morale and the organization in general to keep around.”

    It was a good reminder because it’s easy for a change agent to get negative – usually this happens out of increasing frustration at the SLOW pace of actual change despite all their energy pushing to make change. This frustration and shift towards negativity can sneak up on the change agent a little at a time if they don’t pay attention and accept that change takes time proportional to the length of time things have been the same times the size of the organization (or something like that :)).

    I haven’t worked at Apple and I don’t know Scott Forstall or how he worked, but I wonder if he hadn’t learned the lesson articulated to me by that VP way back when: “Keep it positive.”

    A positive change agent shouldn’t be making (many) enemies or have many people who don’t want to work with them but instead should be an inspiring leader people want to follow because the success and growth is exciting to be part of.

  5. I fear indeed that this is how it will begin. Did never think it would be this soon.

  6. Richard 2 years ago

    This post is the first really thought-provoking “pro-Forstall” piece I have read.

    But I was always under the impression that Jony Ive had major responsibility for disrupting hardware design at Apple. Was most of this disruption actually due to Steve Jobs?

    When I think of Ive, “disruption” is pretty much the first thing that comes to mind, but maybe I’m not as well informed on this as I thought I was.

  7. While your thesis is likely true about the downfall of Apple, Ive is a wildcard in terms of software design, but exactly the right call. I would counter that Ive is disruptive. Apple’s hardware design wins have continued for almost 15 years. Largely due to Ive.

    Currently, the latest iTunes revision is delayed. I wonder if it’s because of the transition due to Ive doing a design review of it, technical issues, a combination of both or a third, unknown business-related reason (e.g., licensing, social media partnership terms, etc.). My hope is that it’s delayed because of design issues and Ive pulled it to fix design problems. Which are myriad.

    In a tech company, is it possible to get shit done, be a disruptor and still be nice? Engineers can be stubborn, prone to arrogance (of the old, wrong ways) and fight the wrong battles including legacy fiefdoms. What kind of person does it take to move nerds forward?

    Assholism only gets one so far. Past success builds a layer of respect that can be commensurate and I wonder how that will play out for Ive in terms of his new duties.

  8. NormM 2 years ago

    As Keynes said, In the long run we’re all dead. So of course Apple is dead too, sometime before the sun dies. Saying that doesn’t tell us anything about the near term.

    My guess is that the hardest-to-replace characteristic Jobs had was his taste and leadership, inspiring and driving his team to achieve, and keeping them working together. The thing I worry about most now is the last part — keeping them working together. I expect that Cook correctly prioritized that. In a company full of smart creative people who’ve been trained to advance their opinions, I think there will be plenty of sources of creative disruption. They just need to keep people in charge who have the taste and the honesty to recognize good ideas and push them. I think they have.

  9. Deb Wong 2 years ago

    I find it interesting that the author mentions that “collaboration” isn’t a part of Apple’s or the late Steve Job’s vocabulary. If you look at the early videos of his retreats and is reputation for many face to face meetings, I am not so sure this is true. Yes, he wasn’t always the kindest person to others and in fact really ran roughshod of folks that he perceived did not have anything to contribute. And yes, he did often berate ideas of others only to adopt them the next day. But he was known for respecting and allowing space for those who challenged him. If what we call collaboration is not a part of Apple’s language, why do so many folks say that their best work was done there?

  10. GeorgeS 2 years ago

    Something to consider: Perhaps Forstall was actually keeping innovation down in his area. Perhaps there were some brilliant designers who were put down, even fired, because they didn’t agree with Forstall. Do we know his management style? Was it inclusive or authoritarian?

    There’s a reason that the US military has both an “up or out” promotion system for officers and hard limits on tenure. (A colonel typically must retire at 30 years service. A general officer may go a bit longer.) It can help to chop off the top of an organization once in a while and let those below rise. M above was right to refer to Jobs’ speech at Stanford.

    For Forstall, this may be the best thing that could have happened. He could easily be CEO of his own company. As one of the folks on Angry Mac Bastards said, maybe Forstall decided that he should be his own boss.

  11. Brad Weston 2 years ago

    I respecte the sentiment, but disagree with the outcome. I think we are all guilty of forgetting our history… you mentioned the following people… each one of which I thought “doom and despair” on their leaving:

    Avie Tevanian

    Jon Rubinstein

    Tony Fadell

    Bertrand Serlet

    Each of these guys was at one time considered a very strong asset to the DNA of Apple, but Apple has thrived in their absence. Forstall is no different.

    Seriously, what products are you currently disappointed in? New iMacs are stunning… held the iPad mini for the first time yesterday and was totally blown away… iPhone 5 is fantastic… I’m writing this on a Retina 15 — the best notebook in the world. Oh, and all these devices are selling WILDLY.

    Last week, doom and despair was because of Google’s voice search and its comparison to Siri — Google’s is a great tool, to be sure, but a tool that is at its best limited to the least useful things of Siri. I use Siri every day — but rarely for web searches… I create appointments, text, tweet, check football scores, and call by name. This isn’t an apples and apples comparison. Further, in reading comments, I was struck by the number of Android users that were upset that the phone they bought less than a year ago had inferior Google Now support to what was available in the Google Search app on iOS on an iPhone 3GS. I know plenty of people that have defected that are 100% coming back to the iPhone as soon as they can because of the lack of OS upgrades their device gets access to. There is a long list of things that I think need to be done on iOS, but it is still, unequivocally, the best option out there… app library or not.

    Doom is not inevitable… further I don’t think it even likely. Steve died. That hurts. But there is still a tremendous amount of innovation left in Apple… there’s no reason to think otherwise. Further, there’s no reason to believe that volatility is important for that, or that it has left.

  12. Moose G 2 years ago

    One thing that Forstall hasn’t got that Steve had (and Apple has had) is failure. Steve was kicked out of Apple, spent some time in the wilderness, did other things, and then came back stronger, more mature.

    Apple had been in the position of almost being bankrupt and the wounds are still raw to Apple – not being in control of key technologies or pieces of software, loosing developers, and commoditisation of hardware.

    With the advances being made in their own chipsets, the move to Retina, the adoption of thunderbolt, making their devices the best value (not the cheapest), the aligning of the desktop and mobile operating systems, the integration with cloud services, Apple is certainly learning from its past.

    A lot of interviews with Jobs from many years ago give an insight into where computing was heading. Suppose for a minute this future looking is embedded within Apple. Focussing on the solution to problems rather than the technology itself or engaging in a specification war. If this is the case then Apple may have just lost a good implementor rather than a great visionary.

  13. The Cappy 2 years ago

    I love Apple mostly because I want the future to be full of cool, innovative things. Apple brings it. But if someone else develops a culture of greatness, banging out high-quality, innovative stuff — hey, I’ll love that too. I hope Forstall goes and does something great after this. Maybe this will be transformative for him, like when Jobs was fired by Apple. And maybe afterward, he’ll go and change the world. Time will tell.

  14. Alan Williams 2 years ago

    If you see Apple’s demise in the future, if it is inevitable and we just don’t know when, then obviously you know the exact date and time when Microsoft’s steep nose dive into a corn field will happen, with Microsoft’s death being so close and all.

  15. Thomas 2 years ago

    Well, like Steve Jobs was thrown out of Apple in 1985, now it’s Scott Forstall’s turn to go into exile and put his mind at something else. And perhaps he’ll return to Apple ten years later and will save Apple from the then ongoing turn into oblivion.

  16. Wesman 2 years ago

    This thought is totally off the mark. Ios6 is crap. That is why forstall is history at appl. Innovation is not a fight and is not the result of a personality cult. More fighting will not lead to better results. That’s just dumb. Jobs could orchestrate the delicate balance of conflict and context needed for innovation to occur. Cook is not that person. He needs a different way. We will see how this works out. Remember, the DNA of appl is preserved deeply within the organization. All organizations die, but my guess is that the DNA of appl will take many generations to become insignificant.

  17. Innovation is fight; but divisions infighting rarely brings innovation.

    Without being a fly in Apple’s meetings, it’s hard to tell if Forstall was axed because he was too much of a radical visionary leader to stomach, or because he was putting his iOS fiefdom power ahead of the interests of Apple as a whole (or instead if it was just a matter of egos fighting without any strategical vision behind it).

    The focus that Apple put on “collaboration” is indeed peculiar, as the new roles assigned (Cue -> services, Ive -> human interface, Federighi -> client software).

    It may be read as a way to sedate confrontation and play it safe, sure, but I think it can also signal an interesting way to avoid a silo effect.

    Let’s face it, iOS is the most important product at Apple right now, the cornerstone of their revenues.

    Look at what happened at Microsoft in the last 15 years, with the Windows and Office divisions being so powerful that any innovative idea that didn’t fit with their estabilished models was actively killed and sidelined.

    “Collaboration” wasn’t needed under Jobs because he himself was the ultimate holistic power that made sure that everyone worked for innovation, and not for growing his fieffdom.

    Now that he’s gone, it may be that this new “collaborative” setup is the only way to keep allowing distruption from the inside at Apple.

    Forstall could’ve been the the new Jobs? Maybe.

    But waht if he was instead going to be the new Allchin/Sinofksy?

  18. I absolutely love this article. It touches on something at the very core of Apple’s spirit. While people tend to view conflict and disruption as negatives they are in fact central to unity. The duality within the ranks results in a oneness where it matters. This was evident in Apple’s culture from the Mac pirates days.

    Forstall was outed for all the wrong reasons. It’s a real shame that Tim Cook has taken Jobs’ comments about not asking what Steve would do so literally.

  19. Dan Crow 2 years ago

    You might also enjoy this article I wrote for The Guardian last week on the same subject, reaching much the same conclusion: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/nov/07/peak-apple

  20. Steve Jobs’s story includes a mysterious period in the wilderness (part of the standard prophet myth cycle, if I recall correctly) so it could be that this is, as others suggest, Forstall’s turn. Will he go off, find himself, and come back stronger?

    Sculley (and his short-lived successors) took over an Apple that was making insane amounts of money and enjoying huge margins. The 20/20 hindsight consensus history holds that Apple stopped innovating and nearly died on the vine, but in fact the real problem is that Apple’s innovation lost focus — we got Newton and eMate (Sculley coined “Knowledge Navigator” and “PDA”), eWorld, Quickdraw 3D, TrueType, QuickDraw GX, Casper, Apple Telephony, Kaleida, ScriptX, PowerPC, Taligent, Copland, OpenDoc, Cyberdog, PowerPC, Dylan, and even some good stuff, like QuickTime, and… I know there was another thing.

    Back in 2000 the 20/20 hindsight consensus history was that Sculley’s single greatest mistake was ignoring Bill Gates’s offer to help Apple license Mac OS to third parties and become, in essence, Microsoft (http://scripting.com/specials/gatesLetter/text.html).

    It seems to me that if Apple under Sculley had rocked at execution the way it has under Tim Cook (et al), Apple would have done just fine in the 90s. Can Tim Cook say no? Can Tim Cook execute the stuff he says yes to? These are the questions.

  21. Ashish Kumar 2 years ago

    One thing most people fail to recognize is the reason Forstall was forced out was _because_ he was so much like Jobs. Isn’t it possible that Cook felt threatened under the intense scrutiny that Apple is under since Job’s demise that he fired the guy who was most likely to replace him should something go wrong?

  22. (Unwelcome comment incoming.) Is this how it begins? I sure hope so — I don’t think it’s healthy for the tech industry to have so much fixation on one company.

  23. Zato Gibson 2 years ago

    “Apple is eventually doomed. ”

    Everything is doomed. The USA is doomed. Less than 100 years from now, the USA will no longer exist. The world of science and technology we know, will be gone. The end will come because this world is an a-hole world.

    Apple will end because this world is an a-hole world, and that is what the a-holes* want. They want THEIR choice to be the ONLY choice. The time is right for the a-holes to step up the anti-Apple propaganda. They have the Surface, WIN8, Lumia, App store, Retail, all the weapons they need have been copied.

    *a-hole is a street term for egoist.

  24. James Coulee 2 years ago

    “Collaboration” may not be part of Jobs persona, but I’m quite sure Apple’s PR department was as keen to use it in their press releases then as they are today… :p I suspect it’s an error to read so much into it.

  25. I had a similar reaction to forstall’s departure, but I wonder to myself if Tim Cook didnt get the wrong message. His executives would not have revolted under Steve Jobs, they revolted under him, because they view him as easier to manipulate. As much of an ahole that forstall may be, the fact that the other execs threw tantrums the minute Cook took over does not speak well of their level of respect for him.

  26. Ryan Long 2 years ago

    It could also be that Forstall ratcheted up his divisive behavior after Jobs was no longer around to keep him in line.

  27. Signs 2 years ago

    I think several here have gotten it right: Apple does indeed thrive on collaboration – remember the famous organigrams of Apple vs Google vs Microsoft? Jobs calling it the world’s biggest startup?

    So, if it didnt work out with Forstall within that style of work, we’d expect to see precisely what has just happened. There’s a difference between working as a team and riding out the conflicts, and where it stops the work.

    And collaboration is indeed conflict. @cnortontenor just reminded on twitter about Steve Jobs’s Parable of the stones – it makes everything fall into place.

  28. Steven Fierberg 2 years ago

    This is a wonderful article with great comments as well. But the central assumption is that Scott Forstall is, in a sense, talented enough to bully Jonny Ives, Mansfield, and the rest. Do you really think he is that talented? I do not. The day that Forstall can’t get along with Ives really marks the end for him. And frankly, the advances in Apple’s operating systems in the last year or two, the part that was under Forstall’s control, are really somewhat disappointing, and pale in comparison to the brilliant achievements in hardware by Ive and the success of icloud under Eddie. So in a power struggle, the right decision was made. Forstall was stuck in ego and frankly, maybe mired in the past. Look at that leather calendar, and tell me that ANYONE can see that as ‘forward-looking.’ Steve may have liked it, but he also told Tim Cook to make his own decisions. Forstall may have become an anchor to innovation by his belief that he, and he alone, could ‘channel’ Jobs. No one can.

  29. Richard Bakker 2 years ago

    Disruptive vs stagnate.

    How disruptive will Ive be ?

    He was the man that Jobs carried on a golden plate, and he was also the man that has moved Apple forwards.

    Now that he gets into the software area, Apple once again will/can move forward. Apple arrived at a moment in time where hardware changes (designwise) will come down to refinements (can the macbook/imac become thinner just yet ? and what else can you provide).

    Apple’s software however, has become stagnated, I suspect that Ive will (disruptly) move Apple forward (once again) in the area it desperately needs it, to keep the hardware design in sync with its software. Given the Forstall vs Ive rumors, there was a huge mismatch.

    This could actually be the right time and the very right choice. Personally I can’t wait for Ive to overhaul Apple’s software, his hardware designs are fantastic what can he do in the 2d world.

    Apple is doomed once Ive leaves Apple, and only then.

    Getting rid of Forstall is, I believe, the best choice Apple could have ever made. Apple thinks the same.

  30. RobDK 2 years ago

    Three cheers to Tim Cook for firing the leader responsible for the Podcast app! This is the most appalling app I have seen. Over 50% of screen area taken up with non-useable junk. Ridiculously small buttons. Bad colour combinations making things hard to see.

    Forstall may have been the genius behind iOS in the start, but he has shown bad judgement in too long a time.

  31. OK but at this point I’d much rather hear about why Forstall was great. All I’ve heard is negatives about him – he must have done some things well too, outside of creating iOS.

    So if you know him, let us know what it was that he did well. Mysteriously successful doesn’t sell me on anybody.

    Steve Jobs left the company in good hands, and I think when he resigned he told his team: Don’t try to be me. Don’t say “what would Steve have done”. Go your own way.

    That’s what they’re doing and that’s clearly the only way they can carry the success further.

    Besides look at Forstall’s clothing. It’s obvious from that that he wouldn’t get along with Ive, and honestly Apple needs Jony Ive. iOS is great and all that but what sells the iPhone to the great unwashed masses is that it looks like nothing else.

    I just got an iPhone 5 and Ive has clearly hit one out of the ballpark again on this device, it makes the previously good-looking iPhone 4 look fat, old, and clunky. If you see it, and you hold it in your hands, you will want it. That’s all there is to it.

    The software on the phone, on the other hand, is buggy. The battery lasted all of 4 hours on my first try. I had to “re-install” iOS, and *not* restore from my old phone to fix it. That reminded me of something – a distant memory I’d rather forget: Windows XP.

  32. vicsandr 2 years ago

    Obviously, like Jobs he’ll go on to do other things, some of them great. Hopefully too, like Jobs he’ll find a way to get back and do even greater things. Right on! Good work!

  33. George Wedding 2 years ago

    This story, and the comments, miss the mark in one way: Steve Jobs was no stranger to collaboration. In product introductions, Jobs often went to great lengths to thank “the team”.

    This alone indicates he placed a high value on collaboration, and was able to magange it through sheer force of persinslity. The firing of Forstall, apparently the one person in the organization who operated most like the founder, suggests that he was at the center of a power struggle that emerged in Jobs’ absence, and that Tim Cook came out as the winner. It suggest Cook would not (or perhaps could not) manage Forstall’s personality and idiosyncrasies to mentor him as did Jobs, nor groom him for the future.

    That’s too bad, as Forstall may well have been a talented visionary himself. Obviously, he was someone who was a very big part of Apple management’s bench strength. Hopefully someone else in the organization will emerge to assume Jobs’ key role as lead visionary. We only have to look at Microsoft’s lack of leadership and “that vision thing” to understand that this is critical.

  34. Great article and great comments. My view is very much in line with the comment by Richard Bakker. I worked in the Apple channel in Asia in the mid to late nineties (pre Jobs return) in an Apple technology evangelist type role. I found it increasingly difficult to defend MacOS against advances in Windows during that period. I have a feeling of deja vu with regards to iOS now in relation to the latest version of Android. Android has made huge advances over where it was 2 years ago. Apple hardware has also made huge advances. But iOS? I am going to buy an iPhone 5, and I am really looking forward to iOS 7.

  35. George Norris 2 years ago

    In the revolution stage, you need rebels. In the post-revolution, you need men who provide stability. In time, however, every new system becomes stagnant and tired. Nietzsche said that “every civilization contains the seeds of its own destruction”, and it is no different with corporations. With Apple’s wealth of intellectual fortitude, the hope is that they can avoid this process for a long time to come. They are now the incumbents, the defenders of the new paradigm, and the forces looking to overthrow will be furious indeed. The question is whether more than a decade of accumulating some of the most talented minds in the tech world can sustain them through the challenges that will surely come. My guess says that they have ten, maybe twenty years to reign as the defending champions, and that all along, upstart rivals will constantly present themselves, trying to find a crack in the castle wall.

  36. You may well be correct in your conclusions, but two of your three things we know about Forstall are circumstantial. Have we not all seen individuals at companies who are incompetent at producing but greatly skilled at attaching themselves into successful projects to extract a measure of acclaim. Further, the fact that he was, by all reports, “Steve’s guy” seems to make his and Jobs’s contributions inextricably intertwined. Finally, I think the semi-famous Kontra post on how skeuomorphism isn’t the problem points to fundamental stagnation in iOS that really has to land on Forstall, since for at least two years, Jobs’s influence has been minimal.

    So, I’m left to conclude that two of your three points in Forstall’s favor are at best circumstantial but with at least concern that he was riding Jobs’s coattails.

    But, I’ll take your word for it that he’s an asshole.

    So, there’s that.

  37. Aardman 2 years ago

    All indications seem point to Forstall being an empire builder. Apple under Jobs had only one person who could be described as an empire builder – Steve Jobs himself.

    A company can only have one empire builder and it can only be the CEO because an empire cannot be a mere subset of the entire company. Otherwise, a fate similar to Microsoft’s awaits it.

    If Forstall built/was building an empire within Apple, he had to go. There is no other option for Apple. Not even promoting him to CEO, because his erstwhile peers would leave/be pushed out en masse.

  38. >> he did often berate ideas of others only to adopt them the next day.

    Except for the berating (depending on the behavior) that isn’t a flaw, that is the way ideas are tested and forged. It is the Socratic method. Ideas must be tested, and that is done by trying to shoot them down. It is a strength if on reflection an idea survived the process that an idea is taken up. And though credit should be given, often the process destroys memories of that unfortunately. This too is a collateral damage.

  39. Rabndon 2 years ago

    Worried about Apple? Has anyone seen Microsoft lately? When Steve Jobs was pushed out of Apple, it wasn’t set up the way it is today. They didn’t have the “Steve University”, and barely just had Ive. I don’t think it’s exactly fair to imply they’ll fail again like they did. Silliness people!

  40. Jann Schafranek 2 years ago

    OMG, you are soo right… It was also a mistake to make the Deal with HTC. Bad Tim Cook, I think Johnny Ive should may ne CEO.

  41. Jean-Francois Mezei 2 years ago

    What if Forstall was just an extension of Steve Jobs and, once left by himself, was not such a great innovator ?

    What if, without Steve Jobs to vet his ideas, Forstall would make lots of mistakes ?

    IOS6 was not impressive. The Maps fiasco shows that he did not put his foot down to state it was not ready and allowed an incomplete product out. (and perhaps he had fought hard to keep 100% control over it when most of the maps stuff is really “data centre” stuff that does belong to eddie cue.

    The biggest question is whether Apple will undue some of the silly Jobs era decisions such as the translucency of menus and panels in OS-X which reduces usability/readability or the removal of full scroll bar functionality.

    At one point, functionality must take precedence over glitz. A product shouldn’t be designed to impress at the keynote, it should be designed to work really well in everyday life.

    It isn’t clear yet where Apple is headed under Cook. So it is too early to pronounce any prognostic.

  42. Excellent post.

    If only the rumors about SF’s interactions with JI and BM have been accurate, then SF was, frankly, dangerous. If those two relationships were representative of the impact SF had in regard to many of the other employees he interacted with, Apple had no other choice but to force change.

    I’m pro-SF, but only when the pieces could be held together constructively. Rumors have been surfacing for years; it was becoming clearer and clearer that SF had turned a certain corner interpersonally. It seems obvious now that SF had become more destructive than constructive within Apple, despite SF’s obvious talents. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been given Gardening Leave, his talent would have been utilized elsewhere within the company.

    One other thought. I have to assume we hear about this stuff way after idiosyncrasies become full-blown problems. When information like this finds its way into an Apple press release, it’s pretty safe to assume anything and everything that could have been tried (to remedy matters) had been…a while ago.

  43. Or maybe… Forstall being forced out is simply Forstall following Jobs footsteps, and will eventually come back to save Apple?

  44. George Girton 2 years ago

    What makes more sense is to examine what will happen with the teams who remain. When a highly active and controversial executive is removed, is that not in itself disruptive? Each Apple disruptive device has been backed by a fully imagined and implemented system. The next volatile shift, when it eventually comes, may not even have an associated device for its system, or it may have a TV. It’s a mistake in analysis to focus on Forstall; his future lay elsewhere as soon as he sold the bulk of his company shares, or more likely some at time before that.

  45. howlongtoretire 2 years ago

    Nothing wrong with being disruptive…. IF the outcome justifies it. But take a look at Apple’s current best/worst initiatives. Forstall is on the wrong end of that spectrum, without a doubt.

    If Ive ever leaves, THEN you’ve got your beginning of the end.

  46. I think STEVE PARIS hit the nail on the head!

    “I have a feeling of deja vu with regards to iOS now in relation to the latest version of Android. Android has made huge advances over where it was 2 years ago.”

  47. I think STEVE PARIS hit the nail on the head!

    “I have a feeling of deja vu with regards to iOS now in relation to the latest version of Android. Android has made huge advances over where it was 2 years ago.”

  48. japtor 2 years ago

    Collaboration is just to work together, you can have disruption and still have collaboration (hell the ideal is to have conflict).

    The issue was that they weren’t working together anymore to begin with, so being disruptive doesn’t mean much if everyone is just doing their own thing. Like if Forstall came up with the iPhone/iPad and everyone involved with hardware told him to fuck off, there’s a problem. He might be like Steve in a lot of ways but without the same RDF* to get people to follow him he’s not remotely the same.

    *Supposedly the iOS team liked him, so perhaps he has a weak undeveloped RDF going for him. A few years away and more experience should strengthen it.

  49. Mark Serlin 2 years ago

    You want disruptive? Stop gouging your customers, releasing half-assed implementations, and stop with the patent wars already. Drop the contemptuous attitude. Grow up and play nice, dammit.

    Apple is already finding out that on the way back down you will have to deal with the people you misused on the way up.

  50. “…because while he was in no way Steve Jobs, he was the best approximation of Steve Jobs that Apple had left.”

    Actually, what you hear and read most is that this was exactly what Forstall over-interpreted as right to behave too much like Jobs.

    If this is true, it is easy to understand that it didn’t work anymore.

  51. The lessons from nature all apply. Change the environment, and the best-adapted survive. The best-adapted either are that way naturally, or mutate in such a way to make them the best-adapted.

    Change agents are mutagens – they disrupt. Some of those disruptions help you survive, others complicate your survival. In a stable ecosystem or for a peak predator, mutations are generally bad. In an unstable ecosystem or for a non-peak predator, mutations are generally good, as they help you survive.

    It’s an interesting question from a biological perspective.

  52. zornwil 2 years ago

    (despite entering name and email address, received an error and had to retype everyhing; would suggest the website should review)

    Given Forstall’s prior recent record of failures and marginal successes with applications (an area Apple has struggled with ongoing, despite their relative excellence in hardware in general and OS usability in particular), it’s rather a surprise he wasn’t discharged earlier, many, including myself, would argue.

    Further, any suggestion that Forstall is a “rough approximation” of Jobs simply because he’s ‘an asshole who seems successful [again, an odd argument given disappointments such as Siri and outright failures across the last few years] and we don’t know how” is of no value unless we get deeper. A recent piece exposes that we, in fact, know a lot more about Jobs’ success at Apple than he being merely some petulant, precocious, and enigmatic prima donna. Rather, he focused on weekly management meetings, on the business vision, and via recognizing “top 100″ contributors, among other tactics, all of which speak to a very strong sense of how to run business fundamentals (something all too sadly lacking in many businesses today). Unless we can know more regarding Forstall’s capabilities aside from being a brilliant asshole, it’s useless speculation to fear a Jobs successor or Apple key innovator is lost. Perhaps, like Jobs, he’ll need some time in the non-Apple wilderness, as Jobs was no Steve Jobs before his return to Apple.

  53. give-me-a-break 2 years ago

    All that I know is that since snow leopard the evolution of Mac OSX have been a disaster. The apple computer line has stagnated terribly. I never update IOS because each new release will probably screw up wifi and/or take something else away that works perfectly well and force me to change. Mac OS X plays less and less well with others, particularly open source. If this is all due to innovators like forestall, then I’m glad hes gone. Who knows who is responsible, but like Lincoln just keep getting rid of generals until you can find one who will win.

  54. Louis 2 years ago

    I side with the group that sees Forstalls forced leave of Apple is a positive sign.

    Forstalls perceived success might be a halo effect of Steves visions that he was tasked to build. Now with being forced to innovate on his own I only see small iOS evolutions. Where Apple was once the innovator in mobile OS I now see this innovation in Android and WP8.

    It is quite correct that there needs to be a disruption every now and then I think that not Forstall is a disruptor but that the much needed disruption was in showing him the door.

  55. .o_0. 2 years ago

    Wow. Amazing so many people can be so wide of the mark – Dan Crow’s article for the Guardian being the exemplar. That said there’s a lot of sense spoken in these comments too.

    Maps.app moving away from Google was vital and not a punt made on a whim. A move of this magnitude is always going to have teething troubles and the only thing borked in Maps.app is some of the POI data, everything else is an improvement (even Nokia have their own 3D maps over at Here) Street View is yesterday’s tech. Siri isn’t the shit heap some like to make out either. Most of it’s troubles are down to the fact that it relies on crappy telco networks to communicate with the mothership. Google’s new voice search on iOS is often very very flaky indeed. All in all, when it comes to Apple, people seem to have very short memories and very unrealistic expectations, oh and they also seem to forget that the company is and has been outperforming everyone else with the same simple yet effective formula it’s been using for years and years…

  56. Renjit Ebroo 2 years ago

    What’s Apple in the news for? Lawsuits, mini versions of existing products, complaints about apps, departing executives etc.

    What’s it not in the news for? Some new amazing i-something.

    What does this portend?

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  58. Peter 4 months ago

    Early days right now, but from what we saw at WWDC 2014 the ouster of Forstall will not be Apple’s turning point. The visual revamp of iOS7 and now the co-operative Yosemite/iOS8 update simply wouldn’t have been possible before.

    The key difference between Forstall and Jobs was that Jobs was Apple’s asshole, Forstall was his own. Running a group like the iOS group within Apple in such an insular fashion is not sustainable.

  59. VirtualMe 2 days ago

    It’s been 2 years now, time to evaluate..