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Scott Forstall's Personality, Origins of iOS, and Lost iPhone 4 Prototype

Businessweek has an in-depth look at Apple's Senior Vice President of iOS Software, Scott Forstall. Readers will be familiar with Forstall from his keynote appearances where he often demonstrates the latest iOS features.

The Businessweek article is a not always flattering look at the man who has been partly responsible for much of Apple's success with the iPhone. Forstall is described as almost as a "mini-Steve" being a detail oriented manager but also one that is difficult to work with.

In fact, the article suggests that Forstall was a major factor in Tony Fadell's departure from Apple in early 2010. Fadell had been called the "Godfather" of the iPod due to his key role in that device's creation.

Forstall and Fadell reportedly went head to head in 2005 when Steve Jobs pitted the two against each other in determining the underlying operating system for the iPhone. The two possibilities were a Linux-based operating system or a Mac OS X based one.
In other words, should he shrink the Mac, which would be an epic feat of engineering, or enlarge the iPod? Jobs preferred the former option, since he would then have a mobile operating system he could customize for the many gizmos then on Appleā€™s drawing board. Rather than pick an approach right away, however, Jobs pitted the teams against each other in a bake-off.
Forstall, of course, led the shrunken down Mac OS X project and ultimately won, but the bad blood over time was said to be a factor in Fadell's decision to leave.

The profile also reports that Forstall may also been an indirect cause of the lost iPhone 4 prototype in 2010. Forstall reportedly convinced Jobs to allow dozens of his engineers to carry prototypes of the then unreleased iPhone 4. It was one of those employees who lost the iPhone 4 at a Redwood City, California bar where it was picked up and sold to Gizmodo.

Forstall had originally joined NeXT, Inc. after college and came to Apple with Steve Jobs after Apple's acquisition of NeXT in 1996. The NeXT operating system then became the basis for Mac OS X and ultimately the iPhone.

Top Rated Comments

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41 months ago


The Businessweek article is a not always flattering look at the man who has been partly responsible for much of Apple's success with the iPhone. Forstall is described as almost as a "mini-Steve" being a detail oriented manager but also one that is difficult to work with.


Newsflash- this is what it takes to get **** done and strive for excellence. I love how people naively think that Apple could have become what it is today, and can stay that way, with chilled-out push-overs and mellow dudes leading it. You can criticize what you see as personality flaws from the comforts of your position on a messageboards, as everyone did with SJ, but at least have the common sense to realize this is what is required to make it, especially in an industry as cut throat as this one. SJ got Apple to where it is precisely by having insanely high standards, exacting requirements, and contro-freak (I hate that term) who micro-manages even the tiniest details. And yes, that naturally produces someone who is difficult to work with. But it's a sacrifice that produces results. I know, as I've worked in high pressure environments. I truly hope Forstall IS like Jobs, as are others in the company, cause that's what Apple needs. People who fight tooth and nail for their vision if they believe it's the right one. That's what Steve did- he did it everyday.

Forstall made absolutely the right call. And out of all the public figures at Apple, I like him the best. Seems to be the most Steve-like in his charisma, energy, passion, and onstage presence. Not Steve by a long shot, obviously. I just hope there is a single person at Apple with a vision to lead everyone else by, because decisions by committee will never work. Someone able to play hardball with content providers, as SJ did with iTunes, iPhone, etc. Damn, now I'm getting depressed again.
Rating: 47 Votes
41 months ago
I actually think he delivers best keynotes after steve jobs
Rating: 38 Votes
41 months ago
Honestly I've always been happier to see Forstall present something rather than Phil or Tim. He seems more lively and entertaining. Mini-Steve? We shall see :)
Rating: 33 Votes
41 months ago
Having met Scott at WWDC in 2009, I was certainly impressed with him personally. That was already based upon his public work as well.

This article certainly reaffirms for me that Apple is in quite good hands.
Rating: 23 Votes
41 months ago
Forstall = Jobs Jr.?

Only time will tell, but so far I've been impressed with Scott's work.
Rating: 22 Votes
41 months ago
As a former colleague of Scotts, Fadell didn't stand a chance.

The first mistake was suggesting Linux.

The second mistake by Fadell thinking Scott whose knowledge of OS X [NeXTStep/Openstep] would be weak against his own. The guy's technical skills were dwarfed by Scott's own.

Hint: Scott has a Masters in CS from Stanford in areas of Symbolic Systems and also areas of AI. Calling Siri. Scott's been wanting to apply that in several areas for a long time. Prototypes of his work goes back to NeXT.

Other than Peter Grafanino, Ali Ozer, Dean Reece, and other geniuses I had the pleasure to make friends, this guy didn't stand a chance.

You have to earn Scott's respect. I got along with him once he knew where I stood and I always knew where he stood. He's a very personable guy away from his work.

He's extremely focused, driven and like most at NeXT everyone of our positions required us to do the work of several people. You didn't have to go far to get an answer to a technical question around NeXT. And once you knew it you added to your own.

I see it as it was a test Steve set up to see if Scott was ready to take the next step and become a Senior VP.

It's no contest here.

Scott had 10 years of sparring with Avie Tevanian, Steve, Grafanino, Ozer Jeff Martin and so many other great devs and colleagues. He was always going to become the position he now holds.

I expected no less.

P.S. During the merger we used mklinux to get Openstep ported onto PowerPC 603 and newer system during the Rhapsody project.

There was never any serious interest in Linux to be part of Apple's ecosystem.

And yes, Steve was never going to not have control over the OS.

In a similar vein, Linus is Linux's dictator.
Rating: 22 Votes
41 months ago
There is a big part of me that is relieved to hear that someone over there is still a cut throat jerk.
Rating: 22 Votes
41 months ago
Interesting. A shrunken down OS X just seems like an all around better idea. Good call Forstall.
Rating: 19 Votes
41 months ago
I like Forstall, he looks creepy though
Rating: 19 Votes
41 months ago
Working at Apple sounds scary. Every time I read about accounts of the inner workings of Apple it reminds of accounts of the inner workings of Scientology. Apple is materially successful, but some of the accountings don't sound mentally healthy.
Rating: 13 Votes

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