Apple, Attention & Competition


I couldn’t help but notice that Apple announced that it was getting rid of iOS chief Scott Forstall and retail boss John Browett on the day Microsoft announced its new Windows Phone 8 and Google announced a slew of new Nexus devices including a new 10-inch tablet. That is a good way to suck the oxygen out of the room and divert attention away from the rival products. As for the move itself – I said it on Twitter: if you do your job and do it well, Cook is okay making you rich. If you mess up, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Browett was a disaster and wrong guy for the job. Forstall forgot he was Steve’s guy, not Steve Jobs.

John Gruber has the best analysis on the Forstall exit.


  1. Bob Corrigan (@bobcorrigan) says:

    October 31st, 2012 at 10:34 am Reply

    I think the time Mr. Forstall will spend there in an advisory role will be a bi-directional experience: he will help transition his job to the new federated team that will own it going forward, but I also think he’ll get a master class from Tim Cook on how to truly operate a huge global business & brand. Just like Mr. Jobs had to go into the wilderness for a few years to grow into the leader he would be come, so perhaps Mr. Forstall’s next adventure (with input and guidance from Mr. Cook) will prepare him for future greatness. One of the hallmarks of the greatest leaders is their willingness to teach. I sense that sort of leadership in Mr. Cook.

  2. Chien-Yu Lin says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 3:22 pm Reply

    Half of the Gruber article was about skeumorphism.

    Bizarre to see the disproportionate time spent by some people bringing up Forstall’s use of skeumorphic design in the form of wooden bookshelves, leather stitching and felt gaming tables within the Apple ecosystem. It seems that they (READ: designers and journalists) are ignoring a few things:

    (1) Steve Jobs allowed and approved of the use of skeumorphism. That is, the former CEO of Apple not only allowed skeu to happen in its iOS and other products, he did not intervene and prevent it from happening in subsequent updates. This is not Forstall.

    (2) Jobs permitted the conflict of skeu (Forstall) vs. non-skeu (Ive) to exist within Apple. He allowed two people in his leadership team to have different philosophies on design and allowed each to execute their visions in approved products. This is not Forstall.

    (3) Do Android- or Windows-driven products ever use skeu as a selling point against Apple as a product deficit in any sales messaging? No. Even their competition knows that there are more tangible issues to attack the iPhone with like its lack of NFC and instant video sharing (Samsung Galaxy S III).

    (4) What made Apple miss two quarters of earnings was stock-outs: they outsold their very high forecasts. The presence of skeu did not impede sales.

    * * * * * * *
    It is doubtful that skeu has ever played a significant role in winning or losing one single iPhone sale. Not. One. Phone.

  3. Michael Di Canio says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 11:08 am Reply

    It’s tempting to focus on these highly gifted individuals- Forstall, Ive, Cook, Schiller, etc. But what’s inscrutable to us outsiders is the dynamic of these people working together. I have to believe that Mr. Forstall, for all his accomplishments, had become an impediment to this spirit. If it’s true that his relationship with Mr. Ive was so poisoned that they couldn’t be in the same room, this had to be corrected. What stimulated, talented people can accomplish together under good, unobtrusive but disciplined management- I mean real kindred spirits who actually LIKE each other- blows away the efforts of loners working in isolation or bringing negativity to the proceedings. I believe greater things are ahead for Apple that no one can imagine. Yet.

  4. Tim Stout (@RnssncMan) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 8:08 am Reply

    I think the one thing missing from above is that Forstall was opposed to the iPad Mini. I can see him sitting in a meeting and saying “Steve so no way.” So Cook showed him the highway.

  5. Jeff Putz says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 7:57 am Reply

    Did Gruber really say “plainspokenness” when talking about Apple? The company where everything is amazingly beautifully awesome?

  6. Ron Domingue (@rondomingue) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 7:55 am Reply

    I think Forstall was trying to be more like Steve Jobs I and not Steve Jobs II. He’ll resurface and will succeed again just not with Apple in the foreseeable future.

  7. Chris Berryhill (@Berrythrills) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 7:51 am Reply

    Scott Forstall was a huge force at Apple and responsible for much of it’s current success. He was the single force behind the world’s most profitable OS to date. But it seems his attention has drifted from the functional to the whimsical over the past couple years. As Tim Cook said last week, Apple is keeping their foot mashed to the gas pedal. Forstall was falling further and further behind. Then you have Maps, Siri, and reported hardheadedness. So long Scott, and thanks for all the fish.

  8. BongBong (@BongBong) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 6:49 am Reply

    What do I think? I think Om and Gruber made a deal.

  9. airmanchairman says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 6:38 am Reply

    Scapegoating is never a good sign of progressive corporate climate, especially given the great run of success enjoyed at Apple. In the past, it ran the company to the edge of the abyss when they made Steve Jobs’ position untenable and forced him out over the management and shareholders’ corporate greed in pricing his brainchild, the Mac, out of the market, when his dream was for it to be the first affordable desktop PC.

    One thing the late Apple CEO had in buckets was a thick skin, an ability to deflect brickbats both internal and external and play the voracious press and even more eager public “with a straight bat”, while keeping the tensions and unpalatable disagreements “in the family”.

    I eagerly await Tim Cook’s answers to the inevitable questions that will arise over this major reshuffle, particularly when traditionally friendly heavyweight interlocutors like Walt Mossberg ask the frank and straight questions.

  10. ralphell says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 6:09 am Reply

    This is all so redolent of kremlinology in the old days. I’ve never much liked the cut of Forstall’s jib, and your final sentence on him sounds plausible. That said, I think there are many things to admire in iOS, and the pointed failure of the Apple statement to acknowledge Forstall’s contribution in any way seems more sinister than reassuring.

    I don’t really understand your “… don’t let the door hit you on the way out” statement. If that’s the way it works, then why is Forstall kicking around to “serve as an adviser to Tim Cook in the interim”. If he’s become such a non-person, it’s hard to imagine what sort of advice he could usefully provide.

    A propos of Federighi, the Apple statement says “… brings together the OS teams to make it even easier to deliver the best technology … ” — which frankly makes it sound as if the lunatics (PR flacks?) are taking over the asylum. Whoever at any stage suggested that what Apple do in software is remotely “easy”?

  11. Brian Philip Cookson says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 5:46 am Reply

    I’ll be looking forward to Ives’s new skins come iOS 7.
    Also, I just wanted to say that I really like the design aesthetic of comments on your site.

  12. Nico Schuele (@NicoSchuele) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 5:45 am Reply

    Although both analysis make sense, I couldn’t help noticing Gruber’s link to Om Malik’s post and vice-versa. Infinite loop of pats on the back?

  13. Saad (@iSaadSalman) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:44 am Reply

    Steve Forstall was the man behind the development of OSX and iOS and he was hand picked by Steve Jobs for this task. Him leaving Apple can’t be good.

  14. Ron Vanden says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:33 am Reply

    I could care less about the skeuomorphism, one way or the other. I just want things to work, like the home button on the 4 & 4S that didn’t after 2 years (personal experience and of many, many others that I talked to) and of course maps, which are now completely useless to me here in Osaka.
    I don’t know about Forstall but it’s clear to me that Tim Cook did NOT perform well over the Browett failure – he hired him. Hiring the right people is one of Cook’s main jobs and he blew it there.

  15. Robert Varipapa (@drbob) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:19 am Reply

    At least Tim Cook fired these guys without wasting any time. Why is Steve Ballmer still around?

  16. David Olson says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 4:11 am Reply

    John Scully wasn’t a mistaken fool when he got rid of Steve Jobs, Steve needed to go. If Steve did not learn what he learned in his hard knocks schooling, he could not have put Apple on track to take it where it is today. What Tim Cook does today is only part of the story. Now we get to see if Scott Forstall is more like Steve Jobs than it appears. If Scott will enter the University of Hard Knocks and press on in doing great things that have potential of changing the world, even if they fail, then he may one day come back to everyone’s benefit.

  17. chahilureuben says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 3:44 am Reply

    Showing Forstall the door should have been the last resort, Jobs knew what he saw in him when he put him there in the first place.

  18. John C. Randolph (@NSResponder) says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 3:39 am Reply

    I’m seeing a whole lot of cheap shots at Scott Forstall from people who precisely squat about him. Keep in mind that if you’re an AAPL shareholder, Scott’s contributions to the stocks’ value are enormous.

  19. mexmario says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 1:42 am Reply

    Had the privilege of learning something about humility from Mr. Tim Cook at a WWDC Feedback forum (when Apple still made those and they could still fill a room with less than 30 persons and listen to most of them). I was a teenager back then and of course wanted to be like Jobs without realizing that speaking very smug does not make human relationships any better. I made a stupid and unfounded comment about Apple’s performance in Mexico and offended people along the way. Mr. Tim response was so humble, precise and smart that the room filled with silence, my knees started to shake and I just lost my voice and could not even say thank you for the lesson. Reading this, it reminded me that. Humility.

  20. Dan G says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 12:28 am Reply

    competitors are coming out with great products, while Apple is in disarray- way to suck the oxygen out of the Apple hype room

  21. Klaus Busse says:

    October 30th, 2012 at 12:13 am Reply

    I’ve always wondered why Forstall was that high in the foodchain, and I’m pretty happy that Tim Cook shows leadership here.

    Love on details and skeumorphism isn’t the same thing. I’m quite confident that promoting John Ivy is a great idea to bring consistency and ergonomics on the Mac forward.

  22. James Katt says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 11:38 pm Reply

    Scott Forstall got full of himself. He also lost sight of what was all important at Apple: The customer experience.

    Everything that Apple has done is center around the customer and giving the customer pleasure. His fetish for skeuomorphism gave Mac OS X VOMIT AND UGLINESS. No wonder Ive couldn’t stand him. Skeuomorphism has its place. But it cannot be everything that Forstall wanted it to be.

    Apple is also extremely unforgiving a place for the people who are in charge – the vice presidents. As Steve Jobs said, as a vice president you have NO EXCUSE for any failure. Your job is to succeed. Here, Scott Forstall failed – with Siri and with Maps. Maps being the most spectacular failure. Here, he showed zero humility and wouldn’t even acknowledge the mistakes.

    And lastly, Scott Forstall did something Steve Jobs would not do: be a divisive force in the company. At Apple, teams have to cooperate and work as a team. They have to cooperate as if they are a startup and have no room for error. Scott slashed and burned all his bridges unfortunately. He is not Steve Jobs.

  23. Rudolf Charel says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 11:19 pm Reply

    Any executive at Apple who puts his own interests above Apple’s is due for the chop. I believe Steve Forstall did exactly that.

  24. Mal Bakker (@Mael_au) says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 10:24 pm Reply

    Skeuomorphism that is cohesive with the hardware is fine.

    The visual vomit that has been appearing in iOS & OS X of late is an unmitigated design disaster.

    Sometimes people get too far ahead of themselves and it would seem that Mr Forstall was one.

  25. scottgfx says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 10:20 pm Reply

    I’m not surprised by either announcement. Browett doesn’t need any commentary as the news reports about retail are pretty self evident.

    The Forstall thing is a little different. When I watched the iPhone 5 event. Scott seemed out-of-sync with the tone of the proceedings. I’m not a body language expert, but there was something there. The demo went okay, but he seemed agitated? annoyed? I’m not sure; but I had a feeling that he wouldn’t be around long.

    So, does Forstall sell his Apple stock and start the next NeXT?

  26. Apu Petilon (@petilon) says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 10:08 pm Reply

    When Steve Jobs passed away, Apple fans were comforted by the fact that the executive team at Apple was hand-picked by Steve Jobs. As long as that team stayed Apple would be fine. Today’s announcement changes everything.

    I am a huge fan of Apple products, and part of the attraction, for me, is skeuomorphism. Can you imagine Passbook without skeuomorphism? I can’t.

    Scott Forstall was the guy behind both Aqua and iOS. Both are extremely attractive, in part because of the skeuomorphism. Jony Ive, according to reports, is against skeuomorphism. For me, this is a sad day.

    Steve Jobs got the team to work together. Scott Forstall was part of the team for 14 years under Steve Jobs. Tim Cook couldn’t get the team to work together.

    I worry that Apple may now slowly decline into mediocrity.

  27. Tomas Sancio says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 8:55 pm Reply

    Although a bit off-topic, one can’t help noticing from the picture that Sydney is one heck of a city.

  28. Jeff Barbose (@godofbiscuits) says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 8:06 pm Reply

    I agree with Larissa….it was a “take out the trash” day and Apple moved on it.

  29. undeadbydawn (@undeadbydawn) says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 7:17 pm Reply

    I’ve seen more reports on this than Win8 and Nexus combined. More analysis, more excitement, and a lot more on Cook’s awesome powers. Damned fine show,


  30. Larissa Lavender says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 5:14 pm Reply

    I think it’s the other way around. Why would Apple want to divert attention TOWARDS their management troubles? They announced this today as they knew attention would be diverted away towards WP8, Nexus (and Sandy).

  31. Dan Epstein (@DanEpstein140) says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 4:04 pm Reply

    I was a little surprised not seeing Forstall on stage for the iPad mini launch. Makes more sense now.

  32. eideard says:

    October 29th, 2012 at 3:25 pm Reply

    Without any firsthand experience, the view from my neck of the prairie still suggests Tim Cook take the time to find the right person for these positions. If, over time, that proves to need another try – well, then, you do it.

    Nothing wrong with being stern about running a business as long as it’s based on standards – and maintaining those standards.

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