Ive and Forstall were ‘rarely in the same room’

That SVP and iOS chief Scott Forstall fell out of favor with Apple CEO Tim Cook and other vice presidents because of his abrasive and divisive style is no secret. Forstall, 44, was Apple’s youngest vice president. He was also the brains behind OS X since 2006 and the architect of your iPhone’s software. The executive was especially at odds with Apple’s famed industrial design guru Jony Ive over software design. According to a new report by Bloomberg, bad blood ran so deep that Forstall wouldn’t even participate in Ive’s meetings where crucial software and hardware design aspects had been discussed…

Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano, reporting for Bloomberg, heard from people familiar with the situation that Ive and Forstall “were rarely in the same room”.

Even as Forstall oversaw the group responsible for the software that would run the iPhone, he didn’t participate in the meetings.

The article paints Forstall as “a polished presenter” who enjoyed the limelight at Apple keynotes, contrasting him to Ive who made rare public appearances, “preferring instead to appear in videos about the making of the product of the day”.

Supporters admire Forstall’s ability to manage massive technical complexity while pushing his team to innovate. Critics said he was overly concerned with empire building and pushing through favored features while blocking other teams’ ideas.

British-born Ive is known for his deliberate, careful choice of words, and for crediting members of his team while minimizing his own role in development of products.

Ive will have to prove himself because “some engineers are questioning his ability to lead software design”. Be that as it may, Tim Cook clearly had to do something to put an end to this power struggle which could have endangered Apple’s future. However, Forstall’s staff was reportedly “blindsided by the firing” and even his assistant was caught by surprise.

Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook made a choice between the two men this week, forcing out Forstall and leaving Ive in charge of the look and function of the software running everything from the iPod Touch to the top-of-the-line Mac.

A former Microsoft designer weighed in on Ive.

Jonathan understands that design is a collaborative process. A design manager would not try to exert his influence too much, because they know the goodness that comes out of collaboration. You shouldn’t have an idea at the beginning of what a product is supposed to be.

Forstall is said to have channeled the late Steve Jobs as both men shared a similar taste for software design, particularly the widely criticized ornamentation of iOS apps known in design circles as skeumorphism.

Although Apple fired Forstall reportedly for refusing to sign a public apology over the iOS 6 Maps fiasco, I think the main point of contention, in addition to his management style, has got to be this ire with Ive over who gets to control the software experience.

The Ive camp won and Forstall’s out.

He is now in charge of the newly formed Human Interface group which has a studio in the same building as industrial design. Both facilities are off limits to “almost all employees”.

In the long run, this will benefit Apple as Ive is said to be simplifying iOS and removing ornamentation. This is necessary to bring Apple’s software design up to speed with its world-class hardware design. Compared to Apple’s hardware, both OS X and especially iOS feel unnecessarily antiqued and outdated.

Frankly, this was Apple’s biggest problem because most of the innovation with the Android platform is happening in software now. With releases like Jelly Bean Google taking the lead in many respects, Cook clearly did the right move.