Apple staffers were left under no illusions that the company will not settle for second best, as their CEO Tim Cook ruthlessly axed two high-profile managers this week. Software architect Scott Forstall and retail chief John Browett were the casualties – the latter getting his marching orders just six months after being recruited from British chain Dixons.
Still settling into life after Steve Jobs, Cook has channelled his predecessor’s knack for necessary brutality, as Apple endures a slight wobble. Economically speaking, it announced that revenues and profits had grown slightly slower than expected for the second quarter in a row – albeit still dwarfing most of its competitors. Technologically, meanwhile, the company is still reeling from the disastrous rollout of Apple Maps, which was widely derided for inaccuracy and described by Technovia editor Ian Betteridge as “the most half-cooked piece of software that Apple has released in my memory”.
Forstall appears to have been the fall guy for the Maps debacle. In addition, he was responsible for the Siri voice-control interface, which has had a very mixed reception from users. Browett, on the other hand, was axed after his attempt to bring cultural and economic changes to the Apple Store chain met with staff resistance. While he had sought to make the stores more profit-driven, workers felt that this compromised their ability to provide the high class of service they were famous for.
While this may look like a crisis for Apple, it is all relative, with the company recently enjoying a successful launch of the iPad mini, and iOS6 – which contained the erroneous Apple Maps, but was generally an acclaimed platform – receiving the fastest uptake of any mobile operating system upgrade ever.
In addition, Cook has acted swiftly – and probably wisely – in prizing his Stores’ reputation for quality over profit: something that reflects well on the Apple brand as a whole. The snag? Cook brought in Browett and previously defended him, and with the iPhone 5 launch being relatively underwhelming for such a hotly anticipated product, he will be anxiously watching how the company performs over the crucial Christmas period
It could be his head on the block next.