When Apple announced earlier today that -- along with several executive leadership changes -- Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall would be leaving the company in 2013, theories began to fly from every corner of the web. (Some on our team began to suspect changes afoot when Forstall didn't have any onstage presence at last week's iPad mini event, though he did appear in the audience -- seated near former Apple software exec Bertrand Serlet.)
In this case, however, there isn't a terrible amount of digging that needs to be done to reach the conclusion that Forstall simply isn't a good fit for Apple right now, and he made Tim Cook's decision to part ways a lot easier by shooting himself and iOS 6 in the foot.
On the most basic level, Forstall's design philosophy doesn't fall perfectly in line with the rest of Apple. Where hardware guru Jony Ive sees sleek and simple lines, Forstall sees overly ornate virtual bookshelves, a ludicrously detailed digital notebook, and other skeuomorphic touches that were the trademark of the Steve Jobs era. In Cook's quest to make Apple his own, keeping Forstall around probably wasn't helping matters.
You need only look as far as Forstall's immediate successor to confirm this notion: None other than Jony Ive will now "provide leadership" on both the hardware and software sides of the design coin from here on out. "His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple's products for more than a decade," boasts the official press release. Indeed.
But if you're Tim Cook, you can't just up and fire a guy who has worked so hard to help make iOS the success that it is. Well, you could, but it's a lot easier if the person in question manages to really, really disappoint not only you, but millions of customers all at once. Enter Apple Maps.
With Apple Maps in iOS 6, Forstall did two things. First, he pissed off plenty of loyal Apple devotees. And second, he gave Cook a very good reason to say goodbye. Fortune's Adam Lashinksy suggests that the Maps fingerpointing within Apple got to the point where Forstall refused to sign a letter apologizing for dropping the ball (although Jim Dalrymple is throwing some cold water on that). As an employee, that's not the kind of decision that keeps you in the inner circle.
It may seem rash, but remember, Apple Maps was so poorly executed that Cook himself had to apologize to Apple's entire customer base. The CEO of Apple had to write a letter suggesting that iPhone and iPad owners download the Bing app or even bookmark Google Maps on their mobile web browsers while the company figures out how to fix its own maps data. That's not something to be taken lightly, and Cook clearly wasn't willing to be put in that situation ever again.
For all the good Forstall has done for the company, including his work on OS X, shaping iOS over the years and introducing us to Siri (whether you like her or not), completely fumbling one of the most important functions of the company's mobile operating system would be enough to get anyone the axe. Add to that an attitude about design that just didn't fit what the company was trying to accomplish, and there's really no mystery as to why Forstall is now on his way out.