This account is written to portray Scott as the bad guy, one could speculate that perhaps he had been arguing all along that there needed to be a different option, which no one accepted, and when the choice to ship turned out to be a poor one and he was asked to take the blame for it, he might have said "No way, I told you we shouldn't ship it, you overrode me, you sign it."
The version with Scott as the hero, refusing to compromise his principles, also fits all the 'known' facts (maps kinda sucks, Tim signed the apology) and might be communicated by nameless "people familiar with the matter" who liked Scott.
But we won't know. Some folks will know, and some folks will think they know, but having been high enough in the food chain to directly witness some executive shifts like this first hand, and to see how they got spun to the public and to others. the one thing I know is that those of us out here in the peanut gallery, we don't have an ice cube's chance in hell of knowing the 'real' story.
He was even described as CEO-in-Waiting. Even then, the same things were said about his personality conflicts with others:
> personality conflicts with others:
The same things have been said about Steve Jobs over and over.
I'm just pointing out that "Forstall was a problem" isn't a new narrative that is being spun due to his departure, but one that has been around for some time.
It sounds like Forstall wanted to be like Steve, and, for better or for worse, he wasn't allowed to.
Haven't countless MBAs embraced those same ideas before Apple, or even the socially inept who myopically claim that "women like jerks"?
People enjoy looking for excuses for their poor behavior, and they'll usually find them without too much trouble.
Journalistically, the technical term is "hatchet job."
The piece flows like an official leak. On the surface the narrative seems plausible as that of a press event. In depth, it is not.
Forestall cashed out his shares in May, more than a month before the release of the Maps app was announced and almost five months before the letter of apology. Usually, when a senior executive cashes out, it is a clear statement that the direction of the company is such that it no longer appears to be a wise investment - it expresses a loss of faith in the company.
What I find interesting in this officially unofficial narrative is what its truth would imply about Apple's leadership. In an a distorted reality where Forstall signed the letter rather than Cook, consumers would have said, "Who's that?"
More importantly, Wall Street would have said, "Who's in charge?" Forstall would have been taking on the responsibility as the face of Apple, and Cook would have looked ineffectual as a leader by failing to take responsibility.
A letter bearing Forstall's signature would be a clear statement that he was so vital to Apple's future that he was allowed to atone for such a grave error rather than being summarily sacked. It would have made it nearly impossible to fire him, because of the contradictory signals leadership would be sending.
So I doubt the narrative. I doubt that Apple's leadership is so inept as to have considered anyone but Cook signing a letter. I doubt that Cook is so inept as to not seriously consider not apologizing. I doubt that anyone at Apple is so naive as to have misunderstood what Forstall's stock sale meant.
I believe the truth is simple.
At his level, it's pretty much up or out for "Type A personalities." Forstall did not succeed Jobs as CEO. Six months after Job's death, he sold his stock. A year later he publicly took the fall for Maps. In return, Apple lets 75,000 options vest while he advises Cook over the next year. By signing the apology, Cook looks compassionate to consumers. By sacking Forstall, he looks decisive to Wall Street.
The officially unofficial narrative serves it's purpose. It's more interesting than one about a negotiated severance package and the implementation of a succession plan.
And by getting the media to accuse him of acting Jobsian, Forstall displays a Jobsian brilliance. I suspect there is already a queue of companies seeking him as CEO.
Good luck finding such people, though. I'm not sure what it says (you could take it as evidence that Forstall was as bad as this story portrays, or as evidence that people had it out for him and would be willing to unjustly badmouth him), but he does not seem to be well liked at all, especially among insiders.
He had that right.
If the guy ostensibly setting the feature list sends out an email saying "you guys aren't making the right stuff" ... how can you parse that in a way other than "asshole"/"not taking responsibility"?
Or does Apple have an internal project structure more along the lines of Valve?
I like the reference to Milton as well : "It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven."
(Kinda wish a few more companies made this expectation clear... too much deadwood at the VP level in many IT companies I deal with...)
Regardless, even if Maps is totally Forstall's fault, they still threw him under the bus with this story.
.... Or it is completely made up...or the reporter is mates with an intern that overheard it in the lunch room...etc
I know that right after the maps issues came to light, I suddenly got a bunch of recruiting emails from the Apple mapping team. Sounds like the team was caught flat-footed and didn't really have a solid plan to immediately fix things. When you have a pressing and urgent systems engineering problem, I definitely think it's a bad idea to suddenly distract your team with tons of recruiting interviews. Building a good team takes a lot of time and focus. I would normally assume that Apple would transfer their best engineers from other teams to fix the maps app, but maybe Scott didn't have enough goodwill built up within the organization to make that happen.
Don't blame Forstall for not signing the letter if you don't know the cockup was his fault.
It was at the very least his responsibility, and this story paints him as not accepting that responsibility. That doesn't look good. If the story is true, I'd consider it a big enough disagreement to remove someone over.
If Steve Jobs was talking about himself when he made that statement, then it's spot on. He micromanaged the shit out of that company and nearly always got his way. Fortunately, he did a hell of a job. If he screwed up though, he would have had not a single person to blame but himself, because he personally called most of the shots.
While I haven't been an executive at a billion dollar company, I have a good amount of leadership experience from my time in the military. I always try to be blatantly honest with myself and others. If I personally fuck something up, I tend to immediately own up to it and propose a solution. However, there have been a few very rare occasions where I've either had myself and my team thrown under the bus for something that was beyond our control, or failed to complete a task because it was simply impossible to achieve under the given deadline. Only a coward would let someone place undeserved blame on himself or his subordinates.
If he can do his job and do it so well that the company is known for shipping times then what could you possibly tell him about why your product doesn't work? It's too hard?
But assuming he was, surely you aren't suggesting that Apple's speedy delivery times are the pinnacle of human achievement, and that by their accomplishment of this, that every other human undertaking must be trivial.
Writing a Google maps clone is extremely difficult, and if Apple expected to be successful with it already with the meager amount of resources they have put into it, then it was an impossible task and I'd be delighted to tell Tim Cook, that it was in fact, too hard.
As it has been mentioned elsewhere, Google has like 7000 people working on maps, while Apple has 13000 people period. It's doubtful that they would have over 60 percent of their workforce plugging away on a maps clone, so clearly they can't expect their program to be better, especially when Google has been doing this for several years already.
But my comment wasn't even intended to excuse the state of IOS Maps, I was simply pointing out that while we don't know for sure what happened, there are some possible scenarios where the failure wasn't this guy's fault. I was also pointing out that the statement "there is no such thing as not my fault" at the executive level, it a statement that is only true when an executive is given free reign over his work, without anyone else overriding or commandeering.
And yes, speedy delivery time is an achievement. It might be for computers in this instance but militaries and countries are run on their logistics. While we take for advantage shopping for fresh food most people don't realise the amount of preparation that goes into getting fruit to ripen in the stores.
So no, I don't think Maps are hard. The hard part (data acquisition) has already been done. But it can't be a "hobby" either. If they were planning to do their own maps, and the purchase of C3 and Placebase years ago meant they were, they could have looked around and saw that Nokia, Microsoft, and Google, were shelling out serious cash to get it right Apple spending a tenth of that was naive.
As CEO, Cook was right take the blame. If he publicly passed the buck to Forstall I would seriously question his leadership.
If you work with people that constantly offer excuses, even if they are "I was overruled", it is an awful work experience. Imagine you have to team up with that guy to code something and as soon as it goes wrong, he jumps to blame you. Even if it is entirely you're fault (you should claim it yourself, not be called out by a coworker), he still was working on the project. You can't expect to get anywhere by denying your involvement in toxic software that you are clearly involved in.
There is an even larger difference between being a person who is capable of recognizing when their employer is wrongfully blaming something on them and the person who constantly blames things on other people.
I don't know if applies in this situation or not. For all I know this guy could have personally written bad code for maps. The point is, universal statements such as "there is never it's not my fault at the executive level" are just plain false. It is an executive's fault if his subordinates do shitty work, but if the executive's boss ordered something that was impossible to accomplish with a given set of time, manpower, and resources then there is a good possibility that it isn't his fault. He might have to take the fall for it, but at the end of the day if that's what happened, then he knows he did the best he could and therefore shouldn't give a shit what anyone else thinks.
I love my job, I also loved having the opportunity to provide leadership and guidance for others. It is because of the love I had for my job that I would accept responsibility only for the things that are actually my fault(which includes the actions of my subordinates.) I understand that as a supervisor there's always the chance that I would get fired, demoted, or otherwise punished for a superior's mistakes, but that doesn't make it my fault or responsibility unless I actually made a mistake.
Steve Jobs can say "there is no it's not my fault" because at Apple, the buck stopped with him. I don't recall hearing anyone ever telling Steve Jobs that he couldn't do something, or overriding his design decisions. For lower levels of leadership, such as I experienced, there were about 50 different people who would constantly tell me what to do, even though only one person was actually tasked with doing so. Sometimes, my orders were poorly thought out. Sometimes they even contradicted orders given by other people. In situations like these, as I stated before, only a coward would accept the blame without evaluating the specific situation beforehand.
Your boss told you to use xyz technology? You (and others, if necessary) should have convinced him otherwise. If you can't and his decision is a bad one, you have to be the one that says no. That's right -- it's your job on the line, not his. If you signed up to be vp of IOS software, you're in the wrong if something is broken in IOS software. That's why you need to learn to say "no", not only to clients, but to coworkers as well. If that's absolutely not possible, it's time to put on your big boy/girl pants and take the blame because you couldn't fix a problem that you knew existed.
If you're in a situation where different people are telling you different things, then it sounds like you get to decide the specific implementation. It's even probable that those different people telling you different things are really giving you their unsolicited opinion, rather than micromanaging your career.
I think it's cowardly to avoid responsibility for what you sign your name to.
The fact of the matter is that you can do your job extremely well, do everything right by any rational measure, have a strong political position, and yet still get screwed by unanticipated or uncontrollable external and internal forces, up to and including nonsense of others on the executive team, especially in an organization with a poor/weak/incompetent CEO or equivalent.
It happens all the time.
It's pretty easy and cheap to make a blanket "it's always your fault" statement, but back here in the real world it's typically much more nuanced and complicated.
As far as having multiple people telling me what to do, I was mostly referring to my time in the military. Take my word for it, I wasn't expected to choose a specific implementation (unless it was theirs), and they were definitely not offering friendly advice!
Then you quit.
Sometimes the reason is that you can't see the forest for the trees because of your domain expertise.
If the higher ranking person has a decent level of clue, they'll always be aware that they're basically -betting- that they're right about it being the latter rather than the former.
If the higher ranking person has any level of personal honour, they'll precommit to taking full responsibility for anything that goes wrong as a result ... and to quietly letting you keep any glory that accrues for it going right, on the assumption that that was likely mostly a result of your decisions, not of their single override.
Given the preconditions of your boss having clue and honour, quitting should not be the automatic response to their overriding you even if you don't immediately understand why they're doing so.
In fact, I'd suggest that if you don't trust them sufficiently to accept that they'll only do it in cases where they genuinely believe they have a better reason than your reasons for disagreeing, you should be trying to move elsewhere right now, because you have no faith in your superior's ability to use their power appropriately, which is going to be no fun for anybody.
Better would be to make sure that you have good documentation of the event in the case of the shit hitting the fan.
Get convinced of the CEO strategy and execute it, or stay convinced, convince the board and do your way - and in either case, take responsibility for whatever happens to the company in the whole, there is no such thing as "your separate area" or "only your direct actions/subordinates" at that level.
There's a lot we don't know. Was the court case the result of political squabbling, or maybe there were disagreements as to its validity? There's a long line of decisions and personalities in play on the Apple side, and while I think in context we can riff on Maps being the straw that broke the camel's back (the firing was sooner after the apology than the apology was from the court order), we don't have the slightest inkling what the camel looks like, or even whether it's actually a camel.
He's a very smart guy, he simply may not have made it all the way into the consumer side. A Linux distribution should try to get a pro bono out of him while he has extra time.
I see the truth in that, but you have to admit Jobs was probably the person for whom it was easiest to make this admonition.
Sometimes you have to take the fall for something that's not your fault. This is particularly true at high levels of management - or rather, it should be.
It doesn't matter whether it was his personal fault - Scott Forstall was in charge of iOS, full stop. iOS was his remit, maps included.
Even if a major reason is disagreements with CEO or board or other VP's - it is still clearly his responsibility to solve those disagreements and ensure that they don't harm results. As in the Jobs' citation, somewhere between the janitor and his position that ceases to be a valid excuse.
He is asked to sign an apology letter for the short comings of an app that he was in charge of and was at least confident enough in to present to the world. When it was time to pay the piper and accept responsibility for the app he told the world was great, he shirks all responsibility.
I fully support the decision to remove him from his position.
Or, he was against releasing, but was overridden (by Cook perhaps), then refused to apologise because it wasn't his mistake...
The reality is, we don't, and probably won't know. Seems strange though, that Forestall did exceptionally good releases  up until iOS 6 and then all of a sudden he just dropped the ball with maps...
 Excluding the fact that new iOSes generally suck for older iPhones, and force a hardware upgrade.
Cook is a bean counter with no vision. He is very good at bean counting and has a lot of success at it. He is not appropriate as anything more than transitionary CEO for a visionary company.
Replace visionaries with bean counters that have allegiance to the established hierarchical order of bean counters? This works well for commodity companies that sell fizzy sugar water. Will it work for Apple this time around? Last time they went this route with Sculley there were some problems.
Why can't you just say soda, pop or whatever regional dialect you prefer? I don't understand why any time anyone ever says this it has to phrased in the most condescending way possible.
This quote has since been simplified to asking people in technical fields if they want to make fizzy sugar water. Familiarity with this story is widespread in the industry and not an obscure reference, and in this case I wanted to discuss both Jobs, Sculley, Apple, and the result of having a bean counter type person who is excellent at reducing manufacturing costs within a commodity company be in charge of a company whose entire value is based on not being a commodity.
If you've accepted the role of svp of IOS software, you're at fault if there is horribly broken IOS software.
If Tim Cook does his job right: There will be several of those underling heads rolling, either by Tim himself or some one who takes over Forstall's area. (And which one of those two possibilities will tell us a lot about Tim Cook.)
That might be an excuse Tim Cook himself can reasonably use, but not the exec directly responsible for the development of the new Maps app. He simply can't say he was getting information from a small number of direct underlings - he should have been in the trenches talking to the developers, testers and beta users and getting feedback directly.
He was putting his reputation on the line by being the original public presenter for the new Maps, and if he was prepared to stand up in front of the world and say "this is great" he should have first been prepared to dig a little deeper into the true nature of the new app.
True enough, but my point is that there is a bigger problem: He ran an org in which nobody tackled him in the hallway and said "WTF This is a piece of crap! We can't release such a POS, and if you do I quit!"
An organization is not fixed by chopping only one head, there are no doubt lieutenants that need to be axed.
Do you know that they didn't? And there is a lot of gray area between tackling and release that a good manager should be able to dive into.
I know that they either didn't tell him, or didn't tell him in a manner that he listened.
It's really not rocket science: An organization is not fixed by chopping only one head.
People several levels down are getting big bucks too, they're necks are only incrementally less exposed. It's not like these are gov't jobs.
His primary job is not "building good Maps", it is "building an organization that delivers good Maps". Having failed products may be excusable for some reasons; having products fail because your team is not functioning is not excusable, having your team be like that is 100% direct execs fault and responsibility if he has been there for more than a few months.
My guess is that Forstall refused to sign off on the public apology. Nobody was asking him to sign the letter, but he was asked by Cook to stand behind it. Failure to do so was probably the last straw for his remaining in an active role at Apple (a role he clearly was at least contemplating leaving after his big stock sale).
That's their justification. I'm still skeptical. No offense, but an apology not signed by Cook isn't an Apple apology. Tim was gonna' sign it no matter what I believe.
It would have been signed by Tim Cook on behalf of everyone at Apple, but my guess is that Forstall wasn't on board, regardless of whether his name appeared on the public announcement or not.
Apple Maps should have been presented as a first step in a great solution and the issues acknowledged (with promised improvements) far earlier.
Forstall has been a wonderful engineer and manager at Apple and he is largely responsible for the success of iOS, but letting him avoid taking responsibility for this might've been poisonous to Apple in the long term.
I guess they just made room for one.