The Wall Street Journal reports that Scott Forstall, a long-time lieutenant of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, is leaving the company in a surprise shakeup at the head of Apple (AAPL) ranks.
Forstall, a senior vice president of iOS Software, was reportedly asked to leave following years of friction with other top executives and his recent refusal to sign a public apology for one of the company’s highest-profile gaffes: replacing Google (GOOG)’s maps with Apple’s much-criticized new mapping software.
As the powerful head of the company’s mobile software products group, Forstall oversaw Apple’s iOS mobile operating system that runs the best-selling iPhone and iPad that together account for 70% of Apple’s revenue.
Forstall, who had 1,000 people directly reporting to him, will be leaving the company next year and will serve as an adviser to chief executive Tim Cook in the interim. He was originally hired by NeXT, Inc. after college and came to work for Steve Jobs after Apple’s acquisition of NeXT in 1996.
Apple claimed Forstall’s departure comes as part of executive management changes that “will encourage even more collaboration between the company’s world-class hardware, software and services teams”.
Forstall had been considered a favorite to replace Jobs as CEO after Jobs’ death last October. More recently, he was seen as the next in line behind Cook.
Also departing is John Browett, who joined the company in April as its new retail chief. In August, Browett, who according to industry analysts “failed to fit in at Apple “, was forced to issue an apology on a faulty implementation of a new store staffing formula that cut some employee hours too severely.
Apple said a search for a new retail head is under way and that the group would report to Mr. Cook in the interim. Senior Vice President Eddy Cue will take over voice-controlled assistant Siri and Maps, two of iOS’s most prominent features.
Fortune magazine called Apple’s management reshuffling the biggest and most significant since Jobs pushed out chief executive Gil Amelio in 1997.
Update: GigaOM citing sources deep within Apple reports that “Forstall’s firing was met with a sense of quiet jubilation, especially among people who worked in the engineering groups.” Sources also said that “there are a lot of people going for celebratory drinks, even if there is a little bit of doubt about their roles in the future.”