The incident was the latest clash between Mr. Forstall, who oversaw Apple’s mobile software unit, and other executives at the company. It led to one of the most significant management shake-ups in Apple’s recent history and its most sweeping changes under Chief Executive Tim Cook.
Apple announced the departure of Mr. Forstall on Monday along with the unrelated departure of its new retail chief, John Browett. People familiar with the matter said Mr. Browett was also asked to leave.
Mr. Browett, who only recently was appointed head of the company’s retail operations, failed to fit in at Apple and made some mistakes. They included the faulty implementation of a new staffing formula that cut some employee hours too severely.
Messrs. Forstall and Browett couldn’t be reached to comment.
Mr. Forstall’s departure came after mounting tension with members of Apple’s executive ranks. For years, senior executives had complained that he wasn’t cooperative and showed off his close relationship with Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs.
Without Mr. Jobs to mediate, tensions between Mr. Forstall and other executives built, according to the people familiar with the matter.
The 43-year-old Mr. Forstall recently told people that there is no “decider” now that Mr. Jobs is gone, according to a person briefed on the conversation.
Mr. Forstall also recently sent some members of Apple’s iOS software team an email saying he felt the group wasn’t working on enough big ideas in mobile software, according to a person briefed on the email.
The tension came to a head over maps. Mr. Forstall’s team had been working to replace Google Maps on the iPhone for years. After Apple released its software to the public in September, users immediately complained about data inaccuracies and other bugs.
In deciding how to manage the crisis, Mr. Forstall argued that the company could address the outcry without apologizing, as Apple had done when it shipped iPhones with faulty antennas a few years ago, one of these people said. Mr. Cook and others disagreed, these people said. Mr. Cook signed his name to the apology instead.
Under Mr. Cook, who took over in August 2011, Apple’s executive ranks had remained fairly stable. The company has rewarded its senior executives with lucrative, long-term pay packages.
Mr. Cook had been grooming some executives for their bigger jobs. In August, he promoted Craig Federighi, who oversaw Mac software engineering, to senior vice president. Apple said Monday that Mr. Federighi will take over responsibility for Mr. Forstall’s mobile iOS software unit.
Mr. Forstall, a 15-year Apple veteran, was a protégé of Mr. Jobs, and his name was once bandied about as a possible successor. He rose quickly at the company and earned a reputation for risk taking. But he was also known as difficult to work with, and “never fit into the culture of Apple,” said one person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Forstall has spent time in recent weeks working with his team to improve Apple Maps, which the company built to gain independence from a similar service run by Google Inc. Some people familiar with the matter said members of the team have acknowledged that in a rush to release the product, Apple postponed fixing too many known bugs and errors.
Mr. Browett joined Apple just five months ago in a role that was vacated by longtime retail head Ron Johnson. At the time, Mr. Cook hired him from U.K. big-box-electronics company Dixons PLC and praised Mr. Browett’s expertise in customer service.
But the transition was rocky from the start, compounded by the new staffing formula that cut some employee hours. Internal rumors of Mr. Browett’s departure intensified in recent weeks as Apple canceled a major event for its retail leadership team in Arizona.
The company said a search for a new retail head is under way and that the group would report to Mr. Cook in the interim.
Senior Vice President Eddy Cue will take over Siri and Maps. Executives Jony Ive and Bob Mansfield will also expand their roles. The company said that the changes would help consolidate its online services