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Apple Offers Up a Human Sacrifice

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Who says only the Northeast is getting hit by a major storm? Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) announced a shakeup of its own this afternoon. Scott Forstall, the head of Apple's iOS software, will be leaving the company, and other Apple executives will divvy up his responsibilities.

It's pretty clear why Forstall is leaving: Apple needed a scapegoat for last month's Apple Maps fiasco, not to mention the grim reality that Siri -- the voice-activated digital assistant that the company rolled out last year -- is little more than a novelty.

There's no reason to believe that Forstall deserves to be shown the door, though. Nor is there any reason to know what he'll do when he goes through that door. Apple Maps does that to people.

But seriously, he shouldn't be out of work for long. Even though Apple's iOS is a distant second in smartphone market share to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android, the world's most valuable tech company has a thicker slice of the tablet market. Oh, and it's also the company making the lion's share of the profitability in this space.

"Time for Google or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) to hire him," Henry Blodget tweeted, and rightfully so.

There's no mistaking the importance of iOS to Apple. The iPhone and iPad are its two biggest product lines, contributing more than 68% of its fiscal fourth-quarter revenue.

Was Apple Maps a mistake? Yes. It wasn't ready for prime time. There was no reason to force it into iOS 6.

Is Siri a flop? It probably is, but keep in mind that others have been scrambling for a voice-recognition platform of their own since Apple raised the bar last year. Apple has also spent the past year promoting the heck out of Siri with those silly celebrity ads, so clearly Forstall isn't the only one at Apple who thought Siri was good enough to be a differentiator.

More in store
Forstall isn't the only executive leaving. Retail chief John Browett is also moving on. This may be a bigger surprise. He took over last year after Ron Johnson left to head up J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) .

To the outside world, there didn't seem to be anything wrong at the Apple Store level. Unless Johnson is pining to get his old job back -- and given the mess he's made at J.C. Penney this year, it would be hard to blame him -- there has to be more to this story than meets the eye.

In any event, Forstall and Browett should surface somewhere else soon. Apple looks good on any resume. Apple, on the other hand, still has a Siri to validate, an Apple Maps to fix, and at least one human sacrifice to clean up.

Apple jacks
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2012, at 4:55 PM, TMFDarwood11 wrote:

    The mistake with Apple Maps was bumping Google Maps. Whoever made that call should be the one to go. I doubt if it was Forstall.

    It would have been much wiser to allow the two Map applications to "coexist" for a while until Apple Maps was proven and up to speed.

    This might be what happens when companies get greedy and do things to protect their margins.

    As for Siri, does anyone remember the Apple Newton? It had handwriting recognition software. Seems this type of stuff is more difficult than most realize.

  • Report this Comment On October 30, 2012, at 5:41 PM, brjjj wrote:

    Why do you continue to bash Apple, maybe you decided to short the stock?

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 1:06 AM, lowmaple wrote:

    brjjj: I think if you read you may recall Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. So maybe there are good reasons to "bash" Apple. Disclosure, way long APPL.

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