Scott Forstall, John Browett To Leave Apple As Ive, Cue, Mansfield And Federighi Take On New Roles

Apple has just announced that Scott Forstall will be leaving Apple as of early next year, ending his tenure as SVP of iOS Software. As part of the management change, Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi will take on new responsibilities. Forstall will remain on as an advisor to Tim Cook between now and next year, but appears to be departing the SVP role immediately, according to an official Apple press release.

In addition to Forstall, John Browett will also be leaving Apple. Browett was brought on board as Apple’s head of retail back in January, having served previously as CEO of UK retail chain Dixons. Apple recently reported on its retail progress, having done $4.2 billion of sales through that channel in Q4 2012, beating its Q3 earnings. It’s unclear from the release what exactly was behind Browett’s departure, but it seems like he was likely not a good fit, and his hiring was criticized by a lot of people who didn’t find the Dixons shopping experience particularly compelling.

While Apple says a search is on for Browett’s replacement, it seems to be spreading out Forstall’s duties among existing executive team members. Jony Ive will add Human Interface leadership to his existing design role, Eddy Cue will take on Siri and the nebulous cloud of Maps in addition to iTunes and App Stores, as well as iCloud, and Craig Federighi will fold iOS into his OS X supervision as Apple “brings together the OS teams.”

Bob Mansfield, who had previously been on the way out at Apple, will now head a new group called Technologies covering all of Apple’s wireless and semiconductor teams. That’s an interesting new department, and one that could have significant control over Apple’s future given its deepening emphasis on semiconductor design in-house.

Forstall’s departure is the biggest shakeup by far, however. Forstall joined Apple in 1997, having worked for Jobs at NeXT before that. Many had pegged him as a CEO-in-waiting, both before and after the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs last year. Some on Twitter are suggesting that perhaps Forstall took the brunt of the blame for Apple’s problems with Maps, but it’s also reasonable to hypothesize that with little or no chance of attaining the top spot, Forstall himself wanted to seek out other opportunities where he might take more of a leadership role.

This is definitely the most significant shift in Apple’s make up since Tim Cook took over the CEO role, and even though Forstall leaving is the flashiest aspect, the redistribution of duties shows a very different approach to the way Apple thinks about its products and product lines internally than what we’ve seen the past. The unification of iOS and OS X under one umbrella is, I think, particularly telling, and might signal increasing unity across Apple’s desktop and mobile software.