Apple’s huge front-office shakeup

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Apple announced a blockbuster front-office shakeup this afternoon while most of us were riveted to the coverage of Hurricane Sandy slamming into the northeast U.S. The company said Scott Forstall — the current SVP of iOS Software and once the heir apparent to Steve Jobs — will depart sometime next year, and retail boss John Browett will leave after only eight months on the job.

The company said the moves will promote “even more collaboration” between its hardware, software and services teams, and that explanation jibes with the reorganization. Design guru Jony Ive will expand his role by heading up the new Human Interface group, and Eddy Cue, who currently oversees Apple’s online services, will take on the company’s Siri and Maps businesses.

Om Malik offers an insightful (if brief) take on the shakeup here, noting that CEO Tim Cook “is okay making you rich” if you’re doing the job well, but wastes no time in showing the door to those who don’t perform. And while Forstall was Jobs’ protege, I’m impressed that Cook is taking a firm hand here. Cook is clearly betting heavily on Ive, as John Gruber notes in this insightful post, who will be solely accountable for UI design in the post-Jobs era.

But Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky makes a great point in this piece, pointing out that Cook may be making a mistake in adopting Jobs’ strategy of divulging as little information as necessary. Jobs could get away with that, Lashinsky writes, because he constantly silenced doubters with his success. Cook has yet to build that kind of track record, so his close-to-the-vest strategy isn’t likely to assuage any concerns investors may have about today’s shakeup.