The normalization of Apple

There's been a lot of great stuff written about the recent Apple management shake-up that saw Scott Forstall removed as head of iOS and his portfolio re-distributed to Jony Ive (design), Craig Frederighi (software), and Eddy Cue (services).

That last one in particular, by Michael Lopp, talks to the important of disruption and how it is vital to success.

The word that worried me the most in the press release was in the first sentence. The word was “collaboration”. Close your eyes and imagine a meeting with Steve Jobs. Imagine how it proceeds and how decisions are made. Does the word collaboration ever enter your mind? Not mine. I’m just sitting there on pins and needles waiting for the guy to explode and rip us to shreds because we phoned it in on a seemingly unimportant icon.

Consensus is said to be the opposite of leadership, but collaboration is a tool to achieve normalization. Under Steve Jobs, the power of personality literally revolutionized the consumer electronic world. Under Scott Forstall, the power of personality literally changed the mobile experience of a generation. Yet with incredible highs come incredible lows. Success, like everything, has a price. And that price is equal and opposite failure. MobileMe, iOS 6 Maps, Siri reliability -- the list is well known.

Absent Steve Jobs, and now absent Scott Forstall, we may have lost Apple's highest highs and the greatest greats. But we may also have lost the lowest lows and worst of the worsts that came with them. Instead of Star Wars under Lucas, we'll have Star Wars under Disney. Instead of Kubrick, we'll have Pixar.

Just like Steve Jobs did with product grids, Tim Cook has now done with people. There will still be great things, and still be terrible things, but the chances of both will be lessened by collaboration and committee.

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

The normalization of Apple

19 Comments

A mobile device is something that you can take with you anywhere and use with relative ease. The iPhone and iPod Touch, and *possibly* iPad Mini are such devices.

A "Portable" device, such as a MacBook Pro, while you can take it with you most places, the ease of use drops in many places. You really need to be stationary to use it.

Re: "...collaboration is a tool to achieve normalization."

Yup. It certainly sounds like Forstall was not a team player. Not a collaborator. That poisoned the relationships between him and his team and the other Apple executives and their teams. Tim had to fix things to allow Apple's management to move ahead, so buh-bye Scott.

And it makes a ton of sense to put Ive in charge of software UX design as well as hardware design. One of Apple's major strengths is the smooth integration of hardware, software, and services in their products. Best to have one single guiding intellect behind Mac, OS X, iDevice, and iOS design. Especially one as ego-free, thoughtful, and end-user-focused as Ive.

The real question is how well can Ive translate his hardware design prowess to software UI prowess. Software UI isn't just how pretty the OS looks but how well it works underneath (software design / engineering).

Holy typos Batman! Come on Rene, your professionalism usually leads to a much better proof read then this article received.

I think that's putting a lot of assumptions into a single word, but it's an interesting article that makes you think.

In my view tablet and computer technology is growing so quickly with so much integration of services and hardware that "power of personality" wasn't going to cut it anymore.

I've just looked at my iPhone 3G on iOS 4 and it's amazing - despite what many claim - how far we came in a few years. "Personality" was good to launch the original phone (which didn't even run apps) and go a little from there. From there on collaboration has to kick in, it's inevitable.

We demand so much more now - it's not just Apple, Google also didn't deliver much change in their latest OS and some of it's key features - e.g. photo sphere - don't work that well at all.

A leaner, more collaborative Apple, might be just the thing to take it to the next level.

Or maybe Cook is setting up the company so that they can collaborate on properly executing the vision that SJ left behind before he passed away. Just a thought.

In conclusion, committee and collaboration relegate us to somewhere between mediocrity and just-average...

Well it was a good ride while it lasted.

Collaboration is democracy .... DUDES,,,, historically democracy is, what always evolution the dictatorship

I don't agree. Steve Jobs said on multi occasions that he saw the type of collaboration of the Beatles as the model for the Apple executive team. If Steve F wasn't going to work as part of the band, then you kick him out of the band.