Apple is attempting to bring on board IBM PowerPC technical whiz Mark Papermaster as Fadell's replacement. IBM, however, has filed a lawsuit against Papermaster to prevent him from defecting to Apple.
The sudden departure of Fadell, a seven-year Apple veteran, comes at the same time his wife, Apple's senior vice president for human resources, Danielle Lambert, is leaving the company. Apple says Fadell and Lambert are leaving to spend more time with their children.
There's a lot on the line with Fadell's stepping aside from his full-time position at the same time Papermaster's appointment could be hung up in a court battle. Here's five reasons Fadell's decision to step aside will hit Apple hard.
1. It Hurts The iPod Franchise
Give credit where credit is due. Fadell had the idea for a hard disk-based digital music player in the 90s. He brought that passion for a far-reaching CE product that could play digital music to Apple and made it fly. Jobs, no doubt, played a big role in engineering design and ease-of-use choices. But it was Fadell's baby. Losing that kind of full-time talent is a big hit to the iPod franchise. Apple's biggest challenge is how to take that iPod device and make it a full function media and Internet device for the masses. Fadell was in the development trenches making sure the iPod franchise was being moved forward with next-generation, cutting-edge products—no small feat for a product that is widely considered the consumer electronics equivalent of the automobile.
2. It Puts The Whammy On iPhone Advances.
So, just how important was Fadell to Apple? Well, he not only brought the iPod from the germ of an idea to a full-fledged product, he was instrumental in iPhone development. Are you serious? This guy was like having Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris during the 1961 baseball season. Hardware and software development, by the way, is all about a single solitary individual driving a product from start to finish. Yes, you need a team. But first and foremost, you need a leader who's willing to make the tough calls in any development project. Fadell was that guy for both the iPod and the iPhone. His departure hurts, and it hurts badly.
3. Apple Loses Someone Who Could Go Toe-To-Toe With Steve Jobs Just When It Needs It Most
One of the greatest public relations masters of all time is Steve Jobs. He is, no doubt, a genius. But he is first and foremost a genius of how to create a media myth. There's a reason Apple executives are so fearful of saying a single solitary word to the press. That job of shaping and molding public opinion is Jobs' domain. But anyone who has walked that long, hard road of bringing a product from idea to design to manufacturing knows it takes a lot more than one person to be successful. Jobs is good at making the whole world think Apple begins and ends with him. But it doesn't. Fadell was someone who could go toe-to-toe with Jobs. And now he's gone. That hurts Apple at a time when it needs someone that can take Jobs on with regard to big product development decisions that will determine Apple's fate well into the future. No one is right 100 percent of the time. Not even Steve Jobs.
4. It's A Big, Fat Apple Morale Killer
Anytime you lose a talented technical whiz like Fadell, who was willing to sit back and let Jobs take all the glory, it's a big downer for the technical team. Developers are different. They aren't egomaniacs for the most part. They like to be part of a team, building innovative, cutting-edge products. By all accounts, Fadell did a great job in the development trenches keeping Apple developers pumped up, playing hard and delivering super-cool products. Fadell is the kind of guy that you want to run through a wall with. He is a techie from the tip of his toes to the top of his hat. Those other techies that were following him up the hill right now are thinking that next trudge up the mountain ain't gonna be so easy. Maybe it's one they won't be willing to make.
5. It Leaves Apple Without A Hardware Device Engineering Chief And A Human Resources Chief
And now the No. 1 reason Fadell's departure is going to hurt Apple: There is no one right now at this very minute in Apple's development trenches making the hard calls. That's right. Papermaster is not at Apple. And it may very well be a cold day down below before he gets there. Are you kidding? Take a guess at how many lawyers IBM has right now working to keep Papermaster from ever stepping foot in Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Papermaster is in for a nice, long vacation. He better be real careful before he starts talking to Apple's development team. My bet is he hasn't had word one with any developer about future product development. Remember, Mr. Papermaster, anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Finally, there hasn't been as much written about the departure of Fadell's wife, Danielle Lambert, but that is one big job given the need for Apple to recruit the best and brightest developers to keep the Apple faithful happy. Apple's biggest strength is its ability to develop great products. That requires developers. And developers walk out the door every night. All HR Pros in the technology business know that the greatest assets walk out the door each and every night. One of the biggest challenges in Silicon Valley is keeping those best and brightest developers. Lambert, no doubt, played a big role in making that happen. Her departure hurts too. Apple lost two highly talented pros in one fell swoop. That isn't something you get over in a day. It takes time to bring new talented people into a company and get them up to speed. The clock is ticking, Apple. Good luck replacing Fadell and Lambert.
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