If Isaac Newton hadn't discovered gravity yet, the top executives falling out of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) might have helped sparked his revelation. Scott Forstall, leader of iOS and veteran since the early 1990s, and John Browett, leader of retail for nine months, are both leaving. The departures will ultimately help Apple keep focus in the long term and keep delivering revolutionary new products.
Forstall might have been having issues working with the other top managers, and without Steve Jobs around to manage personalities, he might've had enough. He is said to have similar personality quirks as Steve Jobs, and as BusinessWeek writes, "he routinely takes credit for collaborative successes, deflects blame for mistakes, and is maddeningly political."
Forstall had been in charge of the new maps software, which received less than stellar reviews. For instance, while Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Maps offers users transit directions, Apple's replacement software guided users to download additional software from its AppStore. There was so much ire, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology and even recommended competitor applications like Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing and even Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) map service.
Most importantly for Apple's future, Forstall believes in skeuomorphism. This is the practice of incorporating old design that was once functional into new products, even if that design now lacks that purpose. A few examples are bookshelves for an e-book application, or the leather grain around Apple's iCal application.
Those against such a design philosophy argue that it hinders innovation, because new technology can be held back if it has to rely on previous design. And one such person with this view is Sir Jonathan Ive, designer of the iPad, iPhone, Macbook, iPod, and iMac.
Jony Ive, unchained
Now, Ive will be in charge of Human Interface as well as his current role leading Industrial Design. Without Forstall to disagree with, Ive can have more sway and influence how users interact with applications. And, if his ability to create timeless and revolutionary design that helped him earn knighthood in the United Kingdom continues, he may help Apple churn out the next great product.
And without a foil, Ive will be able to focus the company even more in one direction. It was intense focus that helped Jobs revive the company when he returned as CEO. He trimmed excessive products and concentrated on four product lines, and improving the experience on those alone. As Apple loses focus to work on improving its Maps, a realm in which it has no previous experience, a change in structure and more streamlined leadership might bring it back to its fundamentals.
Eddy Cue, more than a slick name
Eddy Cue took over Apple's failure of MobileMe and turned it into iCloud. He also is said to be a critical negotiator, responsible for the deals that iTunes made with record labels and the contract with AT&T with the iPhone. Now, he will be in charge of Siri and Maps, and hopefully put them on the right track.
Retail's revolving door
After losing Ron Johnson to J.C. Penney, Apple is ditching his replacement John Browett. Browett came to Apple from the British electronics store Dixons. According to Apple Insider, Browett deferred repairing stores, told employees to fix things themselves, froze all hiring, and was rumored into looking to cut employees. Unfortunately, retail employees who fear for their jobs might find it difficult to focus on customer service. Now, Tim Cook himself will lead Apple's retail chain while the company looks for another replacement, who will hopefully recognize the need for high morale and investment in stores.
After the maps debacle and reports of chipped iPhone 5s shipping, I feared Apple was losing its adherence to making quality products. This reorganization will hopefully reset Apple on a proper course. Otherwise, competitors will pick up where Apple leaves off, and competitors are actively pursuing Apple.
Google's new Nexus 4 phone joins Nexus tablets with 7 or 10-inch screens and completes its own lineup of Nexus devices. Microsoft's new Surface tablet allows the company to tightly develop software with hardware and attempt to match Apple's user experience without relying on hardware suppliers like Dell. Together with Nokia, the new Windows Phone 8 creates a line-up that together also competes with the iPhone and iPad. And, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) has directly compared its Kindle HD to the new iPad mini on its homepage, arguing that you get many more features for more than $100 less.
Fool contributor Dan Newman has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.