Why Firing Scott Forstall Means iOS Will Get A Lot Better



It may seem that getting rid of Scott Forstall is a bad thing. He was, after all, the major architect of Apple’s most successful software: iOS, the software that runs the iPhone and iPad.

It’s actually a very good thing, and it means your iPhone is about to get a whole lot better.

Over the last 12 months Tim Cook has been molding Apple into his own company. He’s already changed the way Apple approaches working conditions in China, environmental issues, and charitable contributions.

And now the he’s just announced two huge firings that have his fingerprints all over it — in a great way.

Everyone knew that the head of retail, John Browett, wouldn’t last long. He’s been screwing up since he took the job less than a year ago. But the firing of Scott Forstall comes as a shocker. Forstall was a disciple of Steve Jobs. They were together back in the NeXT days, and some even thought Forstall may be the one to take over as CEO after Tim Cook is gone.

Forstall’s firing sounds like bad news for Apple’s future, but Forstall leaving Apple is probably a really great thing for Apple and iPhone fans because it gives Jony Ive more power.

Accompanying the announcement of Forstall’s exit is the news that Sir Jonathan Ive, the head of industrial design, will take on a new role as leader of Human Interface design across the company. Ive will now be in charge of product interfaces in both hardware and software. Not only will Ive have the power to tell the iOS dev teams that a certain app looks like crap, but he will also be coming up with new ideas on how to make it better.

For the last few years Forstall and the iOS software team have relied heavily on skeuomorphic design. Rather than clean, minimalist interfaces, iOS users have been subjected to hideous leather calendar apps, woodgrain backgrounds, felt gaming table interfaces, and other elements that try to mimic real-life objects.

Maybe you like skeuomorphisism. That’s fine. Skeuomorphisism isn’t evil, but Apple’s execution of it throughout iOS has been inconsistent. Apple’s UI has been slipping just a little bit over the past few years and Forstall is mostly to blame.

Jony Ive has an amazing talent when it comes to designing gadgets that are both highly functional and intimate. He brought us the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPad mini, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina display, and so many other beautiful pieces of Apple hardware. During that period, Ive never had control over how the software looked on his sexy devices – and yes, a computer can be sexy, just ask Mr. Ive.

If you lust after the hardware, just imagine what Ive could do with software. “His incredible design aesthetic has been the driving force behind the look and feel of Apple’s products for more than a decade,” said Cook in the press release.

Obviously, Ive doesn’t even have to design software from scratch. He just has to provide the iOS team with better guidance towards design that makes sense. Ive’s talent is his ability to deeply analyze an object and understand its most essential elements. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Forstall couldn’t do it.

With the new powers Tim Cook just gave Jony Ive today, we’ve seen Ive go from the man that makes the sexy hardware to a role that’s very similar to one Steve Jobs occupied before his death by controlling the entire user experience.

Cook may not know great design, but that’s okay because he’s got Ive there to help him make the best decisions possible — in both hardware and now software as well.

Shoddy skeuomorphic UI design will probably be coming to an end at Apple and we’ll have Jony Ive to thank for making it possible, and Tim Cook to thank for having the guts to get rid of Scott Forstall.


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