What the Hell Is Happening at Apple?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Don't worry. I'm not pulling a Business Insider hack job with a wildly provocative title only to leave you with a two-sentence cut-and-paste of somebody else's work and a promise to "update" it "soon."

To ask What the Hell Is Happening at Apple? puts it mildly.

You have read me right over the past several days. Tim Cook's power play at Apple ( AAPL) does make me feel a bit better about him as CEO, but it doesn't erase long-term doubts.

You can call that riding both sides of the fence; I call it understanding and respecting the complexity of the situation.

Everybody loves an easy answer. That's probably why so many people ate up The Wall Street Journal report that Cook fired Scott Forstall because he refused to sign Cook's embarrassing Google ( GOOG) Maps apology letter.

That's crap.

If anything, that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but it's a simple and probably wholly inaccurate way to frame a complicated, yet simultaneously straightforward situation.

Lots of people didn't like Forstall. At some level, Cook probably felt threatened by him. MappleGate gave Cook more than he needed to make the move.

What happened, however, raises as many questions as it does accolades for Cook.

Ultimately, much of what led to Forstall's demise falls on Cook in one way or another. In some fashion, he was asleep at the wheel, plus he has to protect his own job. That's a concern, along with, in no particular order:
  • The dividend/buyback decision.
  • Weaker than weak Genius ads pulled shortly after airing.
  • The errant decision by John Browett (also fired) to reshuffle retail staff hours and almost immediate reversal and apology.
  • Though I disagree with it because of the premium price point, criticism over doing an iPad mini warrants attention.
  • What amounts to an iTV stalemate. It looks as if Cook has no idea how to move with forward with Apple TV.

I'm probably forgetting something, but you catch my drift.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple was a well-oiled machine. Certainly, all heck might have been breaking loose from time to time, behind the scenes, but you rarely got that sense with Jobs at CEO.

Maybe that was just the power of his reality distortion field, but that's neither here nor there. It worked.

Apple was a steel trap that hummed along without a hitch. That's obviously no longer the case. This makes the company look less like Apple and more like its inferior competition.

On Wednesday, TheStreet's Eric Jackson questioned why Forstall sold a ton of Apple stock earlier this year and, seemingly, left potentially hundreds of millions more in restricted stock options on the table.

Jackson, a big AAPL bull, wondered why Forstall sold and, presumably, didn't try to make things work at Apple: Maybe the stock sales did signal Forstall was really upset with how things were going under Tim Cook's leadership in the post-Jobs era.

Look, I don't necessarily agree that this is what went down (and I'm not sure Jackson does either), but it's a question worth asking. If Forstall -- a Steve Jobs 'A' player through and through -- wasn't happy with Cook's direction, is there really something amiss?

It's a bizarro world these days. Heck, TheStreet's Doug Kass made money long AAPL Tuesday. (That's the sign of great trader not allowing long-term conviction to cloud near-term judgment).

As an investor, you can't discount or, worse, discard information that doesn't fit with what you want to hear.

There's relative chaos at Apple. While Tim Cook's recent housecleaning might have straightened things out, there's an equally-as-strong possibility it didn't. What Forstall says and does next, if anything, might help shed light on the situation.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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