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Father Of Mac OS X Is Leaving Apple

Bertrand Serlet, the guy who led the development of Mac OS X since the beginning, is leaving Apple. He was one of the heavyweights and a legendary figure at the company, even while he wasn’t well known by the general public. But why is he leaving?

It’s weird that Serlet is departing right now, in the middle of Lion’s development, the first major update to their desktop OS after Snow Leopard. Serlet says he wants to focus more on “science” instead of products. That’s a better excuse than “leaving to focus on my family”, but it’s not hard to imagine that the diminishing role of Apple’s desktop OS has played a big part on this decision. Or maybe he’s just tired, after more than two decades working with El Jobso. It’s most probably a combination of both.

The iOSification of the desktop operating system in Lion and the importance of iOS itself may have played a part too. iOS – the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad’s operating system – is now Apple’s main growth engine, dwarfing Mac OS X. The iOS team is led by Scott Forstall, who was also at NeXT and came to Apple in 1997 along with Jobs and the rest of the team. Forstall worked then on OS X’s birth and the Aqua user interface. And while he wasn’t as important as Avie Tevanian (see below) and Serlet back then, Forstall’s success in the company has skyrocketed at the same speed as the iPhone and iPad themselves.

From the outside, it feels as if Forstall is the rising star as Serlet’s now falls down.

This doesn’t feel good

Along with Tevanian, Jon Ive, and Jon Rubinstein – who ran hardware engineering at NeXT in 1990, was Apple’s senior VP of hardware engineering, and helped create the iPod – Serlet was one of the aces in Steve Jobs’ reboot of the Cupertino company.

Serlet has been working with Steve Jobs for 22 years, since the inception of NeXT, working on the NeXTSTEP operating system that later became Mac OS X. At Apple he was senior vice president of Software Engineering, reporting directly to Steve Jobs. Serlet was second in command to Avie Tevanian – the architect of the Mach kernel and the mother of Mac OS X – until the latter left the position in 2003. He has been crucial for the development of Apple’s operating system, directly leading the release of its most brilliant versions: Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard.

Now, as the company moves into its modal-based, touch-centric future, Serlet may have disagreed with this merging of iOS and Mac OS X philosophies in Lion, which will eventually lead to a complete migration to a new unified OS, more iOS than OS X. At their core, iOS and Mac OS X are basically the same beast.

But whatever the combination of reasons are, the fact is that one of Apple’s most brilliant minds is now exiting the company at a very important time in its history. And that just doesn’t feel good to me.

CUPERTINO, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)— Apple® today announced that Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Mac® Software Engineering, will be leaving the company. Craig Federighi, Apple’s vice president of Mac Software Engineering, will assume Serlet’s responsibilities and report to Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. Federighi is responsible for the development of Mac OS® X and has been managing the Mac OS software engineering group for the past two years.

“I’ve worked with Steve for 22 years and have had an incredible time developing products at both NeXT and Apple, but at this point, I want to focus less on products and more on science,” said Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “Craig has done a great job managing the Mac OS team for the past two years, Lion is a great release and the transition should be seamless.”

Federighi worked at NeXT, followed by Apple, and then spent a decade at Ariba where he held several roles including vice president of Internet Services and chief technology officer. He returned to Apple in 2009 to lead Mac OS X engineering. Federighi holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.


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