News stories are now widely reporting the news that Tim Cook has shaken up the executive team at Apple.
The first, and less significant change is the removal of John Browett as the SVP for retail following a stint of only 5 months. 5 months ago I wrote about my experience with Mr. Browett as a former employee in his company. The picture I painted wasn’t particularly good as, while he might have “talked the talk” with Cook, he certainly didn’t “walk the walk” in his previous role. His discussions with Cook apparently highlighted a shared interest in customer service, something anyone who ever visited a Dixons, PC World or Currys in Europe couldn’t possibly understand. Customer service was not important. Money informed everything, and put pressure on staff. Thus, the service came second to the sale. This created an awful culture, and a culture in which literally the worst management team of any company I’ve ever seen was created.
I’m not surprised he’s gone. The cited reason is basically that he wasn’t a “good fit” for Apple. Of course we know he screwed up this year by cutting staff hours with a stupid algorithm. Browett has all the qualifications of a good head of retail, but in reality he’s not a leader cut for a company like Apple. He doesn’t live & breathe this stuff. He lives & breathes sales targets, which is vital to a successful company, but the culture should inform the money, not the other way around. If everyone is happy, working hard and delivering a pleasant experience to customers, the money will come. If I was working in an Apple store today, I would be breathing a sigh of relief.
The more significant change is the removal of Scott Forstall. Forstall was instrumental in creating iOS, the worlds most powerful & most successful mobile platform. It was him & his team that decided to use OSX as a base for the OS, and it was him and his team that shaped the way the software worked, looked and impacted the lives of others. Make no mistake, this deposition from his role has no impact on the fact that he changed the world.
The crux of the story lays from the new Maps app, which simply was not ready for public consumption. Tim Cook personally signed a note to customers apologising for the poor quality of the app. Apparently, he only signed it because Forstall refused to do so, despite this being his department. That shook enough branches to cause this fallout, as it also appears his relationship with other execs was rocky. No more so than Jony Ive, who will now oversee the design of both the hardware as well as the software while Eddie Cue takes over the online services (namely Siri & Maps).
This is huge, and is likely to affect the stock market price. Many, including myself, felt that Forstall was being groomed to a certain extent to be CEO some day. However it appears his brash approach to engineers and colleagues alike rubbed many up the wrong way. Even Om Malik notes that many in his team will go for a celebratory drink after hearing the news.
One of Forstall’s legacies was the fact that he liked a yearly schedule to turn around products, updates and features. This seems fine and we’re used to it, however this was never the way Apple ran things in the past.
In fact, there were some Macworld keynotes where Jobs stood on stage and basically had nothing magical to offer other than a glimpse into what is coming soon. That was the only keynote that ran on a yearly schedule, and they removed it to make sure they only did a keynote when they were ready for it.
Having a yearly schedule to release updates means the company is less ambitious. You’re not going to embark on something radical if it has to be done in 12 months. Look at video games where there’s a yearly update cycle, the games are bland and uninteresting. They just include feature updates. That is exactly what iOS 6 was, and to some extend, iOS 5. Maps & Siri are symptoms of that kind of schedule. Unfinished, unpolished services that are definitely not ready for public consumption. This isn’t the Apple I know.
Jony Ive will take over as the head of the Human Interface team, which simply expands his role in charge of Industrial Design. This should see a smoother operating function between how the OS works with the hardware, and the app design that drives that functionality. This should see more ambitious plans, better design and less skeumorphism.
Bob Mansfield will take over Technologies, which is a new group that includes all of the wireless teams as well as the semiconductor teams. This should lead to huge innovative thinking and push forward some more radical hardware plans for the company.
Overall, this is the first time you can see Tim Cook putting his foot down as “the boss” and making huge changes to improve the company’s product range. Jobs tried to keep a tight reign over all of his execs to make sure nothing out of line happened, but Cook is giving the power to the execs, and shaping that exec team in such a way that they make sure nothing out of line happens within their, now more integrated, departments.
Having Ive, Mansfield & Cue work in a better way to ensure iOS, hardware & OSX sit together properly should lead to an exciting existence in future. Whatever was being worked on now is likely to be thrown out & replaced for something more significantly radical.
I would expect iOS 7 to be an iterative update to “fix” iOS6 (again, most notably Maps & Siri) and to remove a lot of the skeumorphic design in apps. So maybe when you load any Apple app, you know it’s an Apple app but design only. iOS 8 should be the first time we see true change in the OS. In a radical sense.
Over all, these moves are highly positive, but expect the stock market to react oddly once they open back up.