Forstall 'got what he deserved' says iPod father Fadell

Reaction to Apple's [AAPL] decision to let go its iOS software development chief, Scott Forstall, continues, with former company executive and iPod father, Tony Fadell, welcoming the news saying his one-time boardroom foe "got what he deserved".

[ABOVE: Fadell on Forstall.]

Out the Nest

Speaking to the BBC, Fadell, in the UK as part of a push to get his Nest learning thermostat introduced to the UK and European markets, says he believes losing Forstall will be good for Apple.

"So, I think Apple is in a great space, it has great products and there are amazing people at the company, and those people actually have a chance to have a firm footing now and continue the legacy Steve [Jobs] left."

Fadell's remarks aren't a complete surprise. It's thought bad blood between him and Steve Jobs favorite, Forstall, may have predicated the iPod inventor's retirement from the firm.

Not only does Fadell feel that Forstall's firing was "what he deserved," he also said: "I think what happened just a few weeks back was deserved and justified and it happened."

If nothing else the vehemence of his remarks suggest that claims Forstall was difficult for other executives to work with are to an extent justified, with Fadell -- a man who it is likely still has good contacts within spaceship Cupertino -- somewhat circumspectly saying:

"If you read some of the reports, people were cheering in Cupertino when that event happened."

Fair on Forstall?

To be fair, Forstall may have alienated some people within the company, but was also capable of inspiring great loyalty from within the iOS development team, renowned as one of the hardest-working groups at the hard-working company.

However, while assembling his team many Apple watchers heard mutterings of complaint seemingly from within the company that he took the best and the brightest software engineers from the iPod and OS X teams. The effect of this was to cause at least one iteration of the Mac OS to be delivered later than planned -- though given the strategic importance of the iPhone, it's no great surprise the firm deployed its best talent on that project.

The move may have made strategic sense, but it also meant that, politically, at least, Forstall made life challenging for other Apple leaders. In Fadell's case, this led to a personality clash as he saw his team's raided for talent which left the two men arguing over credit, attention and resources.

A BusinessWeek report reveals:

"…according to several former Apple employees, a number of high-ranking executives have left the company because they found working with Forstall so difficult. That sentiment, it seems, has not been limited to fellow executives. One former member of the iOS team, a senior engineer, describes leaving Apple after growing tired of working with Forstall and hearing his common refrain: “Steve wouldn’t like that.”

Ive he grows

This changes now Jobs' close friend, Jony Ive has taken over much of Forstall's leadership role, a move which prompted Fadell to say he thinks Apple's software design is now in "good hands".

Many observers note Fadell's new company, Nest, to be developing one of the first fully connected devices for the future smart home.

In this he reveals his work to be guided by his time working near Steve Jobs, during which he learned the importance of creating a positive relationship with customers at every point of interaction: how the product is described, how it is sold, packed, unboxed, used and the user experience itself.

A second interview with The Telegraph is also worth a read. Fadell explains that when work began on the iPod it was very much a small experiment: “We wanted to do everything at the cutting edge to the very best of our ability, but we didn’t have this grand idea.”

There was no guarantee the product would ever ship, and the notion that Apple saw the mobile future and built the iPod as a stepping stone toward the iPhone is rejected by the thermostat inventor as "revisionist history".

One parting thought? Forstall may have led development of Maps, but he also led development of an OS that set the bar for mobile operating systems in its time.

The fact that Steve Jobs supported Forstall's work despite the challenges fellow execs faced working with him is no trival matter: it surely suggests there can be no doubt that once the furore has died down the iOS exec will, following a period in some kind of wilderness, return to the limelight with another company or another scheme. What's open to question is if he, as did Jobs before him, will have learned from his recent experiences. I've no doubt there's a future for Jobs' protege. 

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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