Is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) trying to tell the world that it's vulnerable? The timing, if not the tone, of its Monday announcement of management changes suggest frailty we've not seen from the Mac maker in some time. The stock ended Wednesday's trading down more than 2% for the week.

"We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple's history," said CEO Tim Cook in a press release. "The amazing products that we've introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services."

OK, then why fire Forstall? And more importantly, why announce it at the same time that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) were reminding the world they're all-in on challenging Apple in the lucrative market for smart mobile devices?

Microsoft's Surface is already a hit in some corners. On Monday, Mr. Softy joined Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) to put a Windows Phone 8 device on Big Red's network, the Lumia 822.

Google canceled its planned Android event because of Hurricane Sandy, but that didn't prevent the search king from introducing three new Nexus devices on Monday: a new smartphone (Nexus 4) and two new tablets (Nexus 7 and 10). At least two of the three look like winners in the making, my Foolish colleague Evan Niu writes.

Not long after Google revealed its triplets, The Wall Street Journal reported that Forstall was pushed out for refusing to sign his name to Cook's public apology relating to problems with Apple Maps. Ugh.

Any way you position it, this is a serious PR blunder from a team that's way too good to make such gaffes. Katie Cotton and Steve Dowling have guided Apple's well-oiled communications machine for what seems like decades. They know better. Also, the timing stinks. Apple needs the iPhone 5 to deliver on a massive scale in order to get investors believing again.

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