The Scott Forstall mystery

“Mystery continues to surround Scott Forstall’s removal from Apple in October 2012. Forstall has not given any public comments on the circumstances leading up to his dismissal as SVP of iOS Software, an unusual twist in an industry where executive turnover is common, and talent is scarce. As Apple struggles a bit with recent software launches and mishaps, many are asking if Apple would have been better off with Scott Forstall still leading iOS software,” Neil Cybart writes for Above Avalon. “I suspect Apple is giving Forstall quite a bit of financial incentive to remain quiet on what transpired leading to his termination in an effort to not overshadow the Apple Watch launch, a project Forstall likely worked on in the early development stages.

“The official explanation from Apple for Scott Forstall’s removal was to increase collaboration, which implies Forstall was impeding such collaboration. Beyond that, we have been told very little information about the events leading up the management shakeup, besides ‘sources’ telling various journalists there were personality tensions. Fortune reporter Adam Lashinsky positioned the Apple Maps debacle, and Forstall’s refusal to apologize for it’s problematic launch, as the final nail in the coffin. Not having the other side of the story makes this situation that more interesting,” Cybart writes. “I suspect that Forstall was finding himself falling out of favor with the direction Jony and the rest of the executive team were heading. Apple was moving beyond phones and tablets into wearables, and software’s role was changing.”

“Some observers say Apple must miss not having Scott Forstall. I look at the statement as unfalsifiable since it is impossible to know all of the corresponding events that would have taken place if Scott Forstall were still as Apple. I would point out that considering some of Apple’s biggest product mishaps occurred under Forstall’s leadership, I tend to think Forstall’s value-add to Apple has been overestimated,” Cybart writes. “In addition, Craig Federighi has been doing a relatively good job leading software engineering as seen with the upbeat developer reaction following WWDC 2014.”

Read more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: One thing that’s fairly certain is that there are some powerful financial – and, likely, legal – incentives for Forstall to have remained absolutely mute in the face of some rather wilting criticisms of his management abilities/design sensibilities (or lack thereof) following his banishment into the wilderness.

One question remains: Was getting Bob Mansfield back to work at Apple predicated on Forstall not being there?

Related articles:
After Tim Cook gave him the ol’ heave ho, Scott Forstall spent a year traveling – December 9, 2013
Tony Fadell: Scott Forstall ‘got what he deserved’ – November 29, 2012
Un-retired: Why Bob Mansfield is back at Apple in a big way – November 1, 2012
Apple: Forstall pushed out by Cook, source says; news met with ‘quiet jubilation’ inside Apple – October 30, 2012
Now the real Jony Ive era begins at Apple Inc. – October 30, 2012
Tim Cook takes full control of Apple: John Browett and Scott Forstall out; Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi get expanded responsibilities – October 29, 2012
Bob Mansfield, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, to retire; Dan Riccio to take over – June 28, 2012

57 Comments

    1. After reading the original article at its source, I came to one conclusion: the author’s hypothesis is based on anatomic extraction. I could find no definitive facts supporting his assertions and conclusions.

      Lacking hard evidence to support the author’s claims, I would take anything you read with a handful of salt. That’s true for this and other things you read here and elsewhere. Always question what you read. Don’t be spoon fed. The Web is an easy place for manipulation. Yes, even on this site.

      1. …except that the author offers the article as exactly that: a hypothesis. Nowhere in the text does he present his theory as fact. This is hardly a case of “manipulation,” as you put it.

    1. It’s gotta be a bag of mixed emotions using the devices made by the company that fired you. Steve Jobs had gone on to create a superior computer operating system (NeXT), which Apple then bought to save the Mac. I wonder if we’ll see a similar situation happen with Scott? He is a brilliant man and devoted man, and that devotion is what led to this outcome. He was had a laser focus on what he saw being the best for Apple.

  1. Here’s an alternative theory.

    Around the time of Steve Jobs’ death, there were several stories in leading financial publications about Scott Forstall, and his potential as a CEO. Query whether he invited some of those articles profiling him in a PR pitch to be considered to take over for Steve? And if so, was this seen as a failed coup that led the Board to back Tim Cook in terminating him?

    1. Scott Forstall lacks many of the qulifications for being the CEO of most companies let alone Applle Inc.

      Steve jobs dod not bring him over for any such leadership attributes, but for his software engineering prowess and dedicated loyalty, which as important and significant as those were, are not nearly qualifying and substantially enough to run or lead a company.

      Fostall was an over confident and somewhat arrogant team player and hot shot. By no means a visionary, nor a level headed, grounded leader.

      1. Your comment somewhat backs what Brian is hypothesizing. Forstall being over-confident and arrogant went gunning for the CEO position, and when discovered, he was fired.

    2. A corporate coup from a PR angle is way too long shot, and I think Forstall’s corporate political skills are more than sufficient to recognize that. If he were to mount a coup, it would have to have been mounted with a few members on the board (close to majority). Something would have leaked by now had that been the case, I think.

  2. All I know about Scott Forstall’s work is his severe fetish for skeuomorphism. The ugly “felt table” Game Center? The “faux-leather” Calendar with the torn pages? Those were (allegedly) all Scott. The absolute worst example of Forstall’s design ethos came with the laughably horrible original Podcasts app, with the spinning tape reels and the “radio tuner” interface for finding new podcasts. It was really awful, and in hindsight it was holding iOS and OSX back.

    I’ve always assumed that Forstall is one of those special types of brilliant people who needs to work under a strong leader who can focus him and tell him “no” when necessary. Under Jobs, Forstall was an asset. With Jobs gone, Forstall was set loose, and the new free Scott just wasn’t working out.

    ——RM

    1. I liked the skeuomorphism. People complained about it, then complained about the look of iOS7. You can’t have it both ways, or in this case, neither way. Sure there were missteps. Jony has had his share already, too.

      That all said, I do like all of the new things happening today, too. And I don’t believe we’re still working much at all on Steve’s ideas anymore. And I think the world finally realizes it, too, and that is why we have finally had a good surge in AAPL stocks.

      Apple Forever!

      1. Well, maybe you COULD have had it both ways … or, more precisely, starting from both ways just met somewhere in the middle.

        Putting aside the performance issues (being ‘beta-ed’ to death with Forstall, buggier software across the board with Ives) the most visible problem I’ve seen is that, without Jobs, both Forstall & Ives have been average at best interface designers.

        While I hated extreme skeumorphism, I appreciate the ‘obviousness’ of iOS6 & earlier. It was never hard to figure out how to do new things. And I definitely liked the icons a LOT better. Meanwhile, with Ives I like the cruft removal, but he tends to throw out babies with bathwater (to the detriment of usability), and his questionable ascetic sense is the major reason why. I mean, if I have to put up with skeumorphism to have an iOS that doesn’t confuse me, or even helps me get along with out a users manual, then I’m ok with it. Button icons and thicker lines for text and non-whiteout backgrounds are measurably a good thing.

        My question always has been, why have we been presented with ‘either/or’? Yes, get rid of the felt & leather, but no, leave the buttons and legible text. And flatness is fine within the app, but the icons and stuff on the outside don’t seem to be served by that design choice at all. So why be so doctrinaire and force it there?

        Cook should hire Forstall back (or bore someone else like him) and MAKE Ives and he work together on this stuff. The collaboration might be the best substitute possible for the guiding influence Jobs had to keep things going to far in either person’s direction.

      1. Clearly. Nevertheless, Forstall’s most controversial skeuomorphic designs came out near or after the end of Steve Jobs’ life. It seems reasonable to assume that Steve was keeping Scott at least somewhat in check. “I like your designs, Scott, but let’s not go overboard.”

        ——RM

  3. Scott Forstall’s been dragged through the mud enough. I’m no Apple insider, but Scott is talented and did a great job during Apple keynotes. He was confident and sell-assured.

    So, Scott, I appreciate all you did with Apple to make it the premier tech company in the world.

  4. Everyone wanted to be like Mike. Well Scott just wanted to be like Steve. And he was! Only, he was like the very young Steve. In order to become the Steve Jobs that brought Apple back from the brink Scott would have to go through the days in the wilderness that Steve went through. That is what is happening right now.

    Next, Scott will start a company called NExT and do a deal where he buys a company from George Lucas to revolutionize the animation movie business.

    Scott just wants to be like Steve. Is that such a bad thing?

  5. I’ll take Craig Federighi over Scott Forstall…

    It’s still a shame Scott Forstall went off wherever he went off. I expect it had a bit to do with personal maturity, ego vs quality, personality clash, etc. It would be great if he’s off on his own learning experience. We ALL need that.

  6. I “suspect” Apple is giving Forstall quite a bit of financial incentive to “remain quiet” on what transpired leading to his termination in an effort to not overshadow the Apple Watch launch, a project Forstall “likely” worked on in the early development stages.

    Neil, your “journalism” is an accusation of bribery and extortion. You are a hack.

    1. Utter BS, botty. It’s extremely common for settlement agreements and separation agreements to have confidentiality clauses that forbid disclosure of information under threat of some sort of financial penalty. They’re total legal, and as I said, extremely common. In Forstall’s case there could well have been an agreement giving him a substantial amount of money but requiring him not to talk about either his work at Apple nor the events surrounding his departure.

      There was a case in FL earlier this year where the ex-principal of a school won an $80k settlement for age discrimination and the guy’s daughter posted certain details to facebook. That breached the confidentiality agreement and the guy forfeit his $80k.

      None of this is anywhere close to bribery or extortion.

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