Apple reboot without Scott Forstall and John Browett sets rumor mill on high

These are great days for Apple-ologists, those who study Apple the way academics and journalists used to analyze another inscrutable and impenetrable empire: the Soviet Union.

With two key executives — iOS chief Scott Forstall and Apple store czar John Browett — abruptly out the door of the world’s most valuable (and talked about) company, there is room for speculation galore, as seen in the New York Times Bits blog and in CNN’s comparison of the Apple shake up to Hurricane Sandy and basically in any media outlet with a pulse.

And while there is no reason not to believe a Wall Street Journal report that says Scott Forstall’s undoing was his refusal to sign his name to an apology for Apple’s disastrous map app, there is no doubt much more to the story.

Forstall is the more interesting departure. He started working for Apple’s late and larger-than-life CEO Steve Jobs fresh out of grad school, been at Apple 15 years and displayed an admiration bordering on obsession for Jobs.

A number of reports over the years have hinted fairly strongly that Forstall, like his idol, was a bit of a pill. From the Journal:

“Mr. Forstall’s departure came after mounting tension with members of Apple’s executive ranks. For years, senior executives had complained that he wasn’t cooperative and showed off his close relationship with Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs.”

 

While it would be nice, we don’t live in a time when successful people are canned only for being  jerks. (Unemployment is bad enough as it is.) But I’m guessing it doesn’t help.

At any rate, Forstall could unquestionably be the company man. He issued a command performance at the recent Samsung vs. Apple trial in San Jose — bobbing and weaving, avoiding questions from Samsung’s lawyers or giving answers that were every bit as confounding as those given by early versions of Siri, the voice assistant he was so closely associated with.

Business Week went a little deeper on Forstall’s abrasive tendencies in a lengthy profile that ran a year ago:

“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 wouldn’t like that.” Similarly frustrated engineers from Forstall’s group have been hired by other Silicon Valley companies, according to one CEO. (Forstall and Apple declined several requests to comment; Steve Dowling, a company spokesman, says Apple does not cooperate on media profiles of its top executives.)”

It seems Apple would be free to cooperate away at this point, but don’t count on it. Instead, look to the Apple-ologists.

 

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.