Apple on Monday has announced the departure of Scott Forstall, senior vice president of the company’s mobile operating system, iOS. The departure was abrupt, if not entirely unexpected. Forstall was a longtime and talented member of Apple’s executive team, but as Bloomberg Businessweek reported in a cover story last year, he was a polarizing figure within the company. He was not without internal rivals and enemies: As we said in our 2011 article, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, and Bob Mansfield, the company’s head of technology, would rarely take meetings with him unless Apple’s chief executive officer, Tim Cook, was also present.
Forstall is a talented, able performer who brought a tremendous amount of energy to various product roll-outs at Apple. That’s why his absence from the recent iPad Mini announcement raised some eyebrows. At any prior major release of a new iOS device, Forstall would have been expected to speak to the journalists who gathered in San Jose, Calif., last week.
Overseeing iOS put Forstall in a tremendous position of power because Apple’s mobile operating system has increasingly been central to new Apple products and services, but his tenure included plenty of speed bumps. The company’s rollout of iCloud has been more effective than its previous attempts with Mobile Me and .Mac; still, iCloud has generated complaints that it is hard to configure. Forstall was an early supporter of Apple’s purchase of Siri, which led to the voice-activated assistant of the same name; Siri has been criticized for reliability issues. Add the recent Maps issue, in which CEO Cook had to release an apology to Apple customers. It’s quite possible that Forstall, for all his agreed-upon talent and dedication to the company, could say little to defend himself when a reorganization was proposed. He had few friends in Apple’s executive suite.
Being demanding or prickly is fine when you’re doing everything right. (Or, in Steve Jobs’s case, when it’s your company). A negative turn can leave you awfully exposed, with few people leaping to your defense or aid. (Ask A-Rod). Nice guys may finish last, but at least they finish.