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Apple Announces Corporate Leadership Changes

Today, Apple announced changes in their corporate leadership.

Apple® today announced executive management changes that will encourage even more collaboration between the Company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams. As part of these changes, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will add more responsibilities to their roles. Apple also announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple next year and will serve as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook in the interim.

[…]

Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple ….

I have a few immediate takeaways from this announcement. First, the press release is heavy on corporate jargon, which I find annoying. Second, the executive leadership at Apple seems to be rather discordant in recent months. Finally, the changes seem to make sense.

In January, Apple replaced outgoing SVP of Retail, Ron Johnson, with Dixons CEO John Browett. In August, Browett began cutting back staff at Apple retail locations, leading to complaints of over-worked and under-staffed employees. Soon after, Apple apologized:

Making these changes was a mistake and the changes are being reversed. Our employees are our most important asset and the ones who provide the world-class service our customers deserve.

Today, Browett is out - almost announced in passing at the end of the press release.

In June, Apple announced SVP of Hardware Engineering, Bob Mansfield was retiring, to be replaced by Dan Riccio. In July, Apple pulled out of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) program. Only a week later, Mansfield apologized for the mistake:

We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.

One month later, Apple reported that Mansfield wasn’t retiring.

In September, Apple released the iPhone 5 and iOS 6. Among the many new features was an in-house mapping solution. Immediately, Apple maps became the focus of customer dissatisfaction. The case could be made that the timing of the switch from Google to their own solution was inevitable for Apple. In any case, Apple CEO Tim Cook directly apologized for their maps application:

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

Today, Apple announced the head of the iOS development team, Scott Forstall, is leaving next year (although no reasons are given).

Perhaps I am reading too much into these. But the fact is that there are now at least three missteps in the past few months for which Apple has publicly apologized and that apparently led to leadership changes. Whether these incidents were bumps in the road while settling into a post-Steve-Jobs Apple, their collective consequence is a slightly impugned reputation. The relative stability in leadership since Apple’s resurgence in 1997 is seemingly gone, at least temporarily. Perhaps Tim Cook is simply penciling in his starting lineup - a process that takes time.

Jony Ive will now be tasked with human interface across the entire line of Apple products. Perhaps this was to settle an internal debate between design philosophies. The team is then packed into three main areas: hardware technology and design, software, and online services. The moves seemingly make sense and are in line with Apple’s own ideologies: simple, concise, and focused. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait to see how these changes translate to Apple’s products.

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