Scott Forstall was fired from Apple 10 years ago today

Scott Forstall was fired from Apple 10 years ago today
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It may be hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since Scott Forstall was fired from Apple. Forstall was replaced by Craig Federighi on October 29, 2012, although he remained as an executive consultant for about six months thereafter.

Here’s a look at what happened… and what happened next.

Mapping Forstall’s death

Forstall was one of Steve Jobs’ closest allies at Apple. They ate lunch and worked together all the time. But after the death of Steve Jobs in 2011, rumors began to spread that Forstall was not well liked in leadership positions. Many saw Forstall as emulating Jobs’ ego and was quick to avoid blame. In particular, Forstall was said to have clashed so much with Jony Ive, head of industrial design, that they refused to meet together.

Although Forstall was known to be unpopular (at least at the executive level, many people who reported to him have since published entirely positive praise for his leadership), the iPhone and iOS were booming, and Forstall’s political credit was somewhat insurmountable in Apple’s mobile software division. it seemed. He may not have had many friends on the executive team, but his team’s results were hard to deny. But then came September 2012 and the launch of iOS 6.

iOS 6 included an all-new Maps app that replaced Google Maps as the stock maps app on the phone, using Apple data and cartography. The release was a widespread disaster. Apple Maps’ data sources were mostly incorrect or incomplete. Navigation was unreliable and the fancy 3D city Flyover feature exhibited model rendering issues for many landmarks. Apple Maps has been making national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Some joked that Apple only tested it in California (which actually turned out to be half true). Just a week after the release of iOS 6, Apple published an open letter apology admitting that the quality of Maps was not up to standards. The letter even directed customers to download third-party mapping software such as MapQuest and Waze.

This open letter is signed by Tim Cook. it was reported in major newspapers such as New York Times Cook asked Forstall to sign the letter, but Forstall refused due to complaints about Maps. Cook saw the refusal to accept responsibility as the last straw and finally decided it was time for Forstall to go.

A major executive shakeup has been made public press release “Apple Announces Changes to Increase Collaboration Across Hardware, Software and Services.”

Craig Federighi would assume ownership of all of Apple’s operating systems, iOS and OS X (now known as macOS). Assigned Siri and Maps to Eddy Cue. Jony Ive would oversee the human interface team in addition to hardware design.

John Browett also left at the same time

While Scott Forstall’s departure made headlines, Apple’s Retail SVP John Browett was also fired at the same time. His reign over retail was a disaster, going from being hired to being fired within the same calendar year. Most notably, he installed a new retail hiring formula that saw part-time workers’ hours minimized (and some laid off) to cut costs. The impact on employee satisfaction and customer experience in stores was immediate. By August, Apple had completely changed the policy, and its PR team had released a statement publicly describing the changes as a mistake. All in all, his appointment was announced in January 2012, he started in April and was brave in October – lasting just seven months in the role.


Jony Ive’s elevated role led directly to Apple’s application of a flat design aesthetic to its software. Almost as soon as Ive took over, he began working on the iOS 7 design system.

The skeuomorphic objects and richly detailed textures in Apple’s apps were replaced by stark white backgrounds, cartoon icons, and buttons so simplified they could only be distinguished by color, without any borders or backgrounds. Engineering teams will deliver the biggest visual changes to iOS on a very accelerated development schedule.

The first beta version of iOS 7 (baggy) was shipped in June 2013 at WWDC. The adoption of iOS 7 was controversial; some loved it, some hated it. iOS 7 certainly bucked broader industry trends, but overstepped the mark. Future iOS versions saw a gradual return of things like borders around buttons, some shadows, and soft iconography rounded with thicker default line weights and fonts.

To its credit, Apple invested heavily in Maps to iron out the initial release mess. They have invested and hired around the world to develop mapping technologies, including one of the first major engineering bases in India. Early versions of the map collected data from partners such as TomTom. In 2018, Apple announced that it was rebuilding Maps from the ground up and creating a new data layer that it completely owns, a big deal to drive its own ground truth vans. This introduction was well received and Apple Maps competes with Google Maps in many ways these days. Notably, Maps has remained under Cue since the 2012 debacle, but Siri control has ping-ponged around various groups and arguably seen less progress.

It took Apple a while to find a replacement for its retail SVP. In 2014, he hired Angela Ahrendts, who helped integrate Apple’s online and brick-and-mortar experiences and worked with Ive to introduce major design changes to retail stores. Some of Ahrendts’ ambitions — to turn Apple stores into public city squares — weren’t quite as successful, though the essence lives on with today’s diverse series of Apple sessions. Ahrendts left in 2019, replaced by Apple veteran Deirdre O’Brien.

Forstall himself has kept a low profile in recent years. He has privately invested in some tech startups and was an advisor to Snapchat around 2015. He seems to have concentrated on his philanthropic efforts and helped produce several Broadway plays. He made the surface for the tenth anniversary of the iPhone Television interview with the Computer History Museum.

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