Scott Forstall introduces the ill fated iOS 6 Maps at WWDC 2012

Scott Forstall introduces the ill fated iOS 6 Maps at WWDC 2012

In a way we all liked to state how much of a mark Tim Cook was leaving upon Apple. Almost every move he made the writers and the bloggers would burst out into the open and exclaim about this was Tim leaving his legacy upon Apple, doing as Steve Jobs wanted and not leading in his shadow.

However with the largest shakeup in Apple leadership since Jobs took over from Gil Amelio in 1997 we can now really see Tim Cook leaving his mark on Apple. And under the guise of a closed stock market due to Hurricane Sandy and a distracted press a release was pushed out notifying of huge changes at the top (as was pointed out to me by a friend, when Katie Cotton is on the bottom of the PR you know it’s serious).

The release is long but the bottom line is clear. Scott Forstall previously in charge of iOS development is gone, Forstall has been around since the early days when he was snapped up in the purchase of Steve Jobs’ startup NeXT. Forstall was on the front line for Siri and iOS 6 problems, whilst he’s listed as staying on as an adviser this is just due to non-disclosure practices. Whilst not thanking Forstall in the press release Cook did however extend his gratitude towards him in an internal email to Apple employees.

In a less ceremonious exit the controversially hired John Browett is gone after little more than six months as head of retail. Cook made it clear to extend a large amount of thanks to retail staff but Browett’s head has rolled. It can be reassuringly assumed that Cook saw the error of his ways.

Some more interesting observations from the release will show that Jony Ive the famed designer behind almost all of Apple’s hardware in recent history is also now overseeing software design—or as Apple puts it Human Interfaces. Some have pointed towards the prevalence of skeuomorphism in OS X and iOS as being Forstall’s doing, Ive reportedly heavily dislikes such design decisions. It’ll be interesting to see where this leads Apple’s software design in the future, if true.

In terms of software services Eddy Cue, infamous for his work on saving MobileMe and turning it into iCloud as well as the successes of the iTunes and App Stores is now heading up Apple’s two biggest software as service challenges—Siri and iOS Maps.

On the hardware side, Bob Mansfield who earlier this year retired is back for another two years as head of the Technologies group. The press release points towards this work being in the area of semiconductors with a team “who have ambitious plans for the future.” This can be read into quite a bit, Apple continues to push the boundaries with the iPhone and iPad when it comes to how much of the silicon is designed in-house and manufactured without the help of Samsung. I’ve speculated before that Apple may not wish to be bound by Intel’s future roadmaps on the Mac and may even expand its interests in semiconductor design to CPUs for notebooks.

There’s plenty of opinion and some inside track out there already. Viticci over at MacStories remarks on the timing and the supposed political struggles at the top between Scott Forstall and other execs. Adam Lashinsky who has a great record with the inside word from Apple looks towards Forstall’s turbulent relationship with Jony Ive alongside Forstall reportedly refusing to sign the iOS 6 Maps apology letter, leaving Cook high and dry alone. The New York Times chimes in with reports of struggles at the top, some so strong that Ive wouldn’t attend the same meetings as Forstall.

The underlying thread mentioned in both the press release and internal email is that there is now a smaller management team and those that remain are closest allies of Tim Cook. This smaller, tighter management team now criss cross each other in terms of hardware, software and services. The kind of integration that Apple is famed for could well benefit from such a huge strategic move.

Whilst the benefits of this management reduction will no doubt yield results beneficial to both Apple and customers, I can’t help but fear the future of such a small, ageing and increasingly wealthy group of men. Any more departures from the top will leave a drastically small senior management team.