Apple's former heir apparent to depart after Siri and Maps failures

Apple announces massive management shakeup in wake of tumbling stock prices, including bidding bye-bye to retail VP

Under the guise of "increasing collaboration across hardware, software, and services," Apple on Monday announced a massive management shakeup, punctuated by the departure of controversial figures Scott Forstall, senior VP of iPhone Software and previous heir apparent to the Apple throne. Also out is John Browett, who served a disappointing nine months as Apple's senior vice president of retail.

The announcement comes on the tail of a particularly rough month for Apple, during which the company saw its stock prices tumble 11 percent. Whether the changes will mollify enraged Apple investors remains to be seen. The New York Stock Exchange was closed Monday and will remain so at least through Tuesday, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.

Forstall holds the distinction of being the youngest vice president in Apple's history and has been favorably (and unfavorably) compared to the late Steve Jobs as a polarizing genius. Despite those mostly positive credentials -- which pointed to a long-term tenure at Apple and potential ascent to the CEO suite -- the news of Forstall's departure likely won't come as a shock when viewed in hindsight: He's taken flak for Apple's overselling and underdelivering of both Siri -- which proved far less capable than Apple let on -- and Apple Maps, which bombed so badly that CEO Tim Cook had to issue a public apology and point iOS users to such alternatives as MapQuest and Microsoft Bing.

On top of that, Forstall has garnered a reputation for not playing well with others. In an in-depth profile, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported last year that Forstall's relationship with other executive was so tense that some would avoid meetings unless Cook was attending. "That sentiment, it seems, has not been limited to fellow executives," according to the article. "One former member of the iOS team, a senior engineer, describes leaving Apple after growing tired of working with Forstall and hearing his common refrain: 'Steve [Jobs] wouldn't like that.' Similarly frustrated engineers from Forstall's group have been hired by other Silicon Valley companies, according to one CEO."

That account may partially explain what Apple meant in its announcement that the management changes "will encourage even more collaboration among the company's world-class hardware, software, and services teams."

Apple was mum as to whether Forstall was being forced out or if he had made the choice independently. (He sold off 95 percent of his Apple stock last May for a cool $38.7 million -- around the time the stock was dancing around the $600 mark.) Forstall will stay on the payroll as an adviser to Cook through next year. While Forstall plays the advisory role, a handful of other executives will share his current duties:

  • Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Mac Software Engineering, will now lead both iOS and OS X development.
  • Design guru Jony Ive will lead human interface design across the whole company while remaining head of industrial design
  • Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet software and services, will take responsibility for Apple's Maps and its Siri voice interface system.
  • Bob Mansfield, the longtime manufacturing chief who announced his retirement in June but decided in August not to retire after all, will lead a new group called Technologies, charged with bringing together all of Apple's wireless teams as well as its semiconductor teams.

Browett's tenure at Apple, meanwhile, is over effective immediately. He held his position for a scant nine months, and his best-known decision was to institute a new, failed staffing formula at select Apple Stores, resulting in employees losing hours and stores ending up understaffed. Apple in August publically admitted the change was a mistake and reverted to its older system.

This story, "Apple's former heir apparent to depart after Siri and Maps failures," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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