Scott Forstall a divisive figure. During Apple’s most recent times, between 2004 and 2010, he was a third-rate force at the company, behind only Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. It was basically he who, together with the CEO, dictated all the trends in the genesis of the operating system that would become the most important of Ma, the iOS. Then, in 2012 shortly after Jobs’s death, good to note, Forstall was basically forced to leave the company through the back door and disappeared from the technological scene.
The reasons for such a downfall, officially, are a mystery. Some say it was because of the horrific bomb that was Apple Maps, a project led by Forstall, at the time of its launch. Others claim that Forstall was a protégé of Jobs, two men united by the love of the less and less popular scandal and basically hated by the rest of the company (Tony Fadell say it) and, with the CEO dead, nothing else held him back in Cupertino. Perhaps all options are right.
The fact: after years in silence and working as a Broadway show producer, Forstall finally came to the public to share some of his experience at Apple, focusing on developing the company’s most important product (and that everyone is talking even more about us). last years thanks to its ten years anniversary): the iPhone.
As announced, Forstall’s interview, which was mediated by journalist John Markoff, was part of an event held by Computer History Museum in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Apple’s smartphone genesis. In addition to it, three Ma engineers who worked directly with the development of the iPhone Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz were also interviewed by Markoff. The full video of the event is available on the CMH’s Facebook page (or the segment with Forstall can be seen right below starts at 1:07:16 and deserves to be seen); in the following, we will highlight some more interesting points of the chat.
After a brief history of his life, Forstall told how Steve Jobs took a large part of NeXT’s people, including the engineer himself, to Apple at the time of the company’s acquisition. And it didn’t take many years after that to start the «Project Purple», the project that would ultimately generate the iPhone. known fact that the initial idea of ??Apple was to design a tablet, and not a smartphone but what (almost) nobody was aware of was one of the main catalysts of the idea.
According to Forstall, the beginning of «Project Purple» it came about when Jobs came to hate an unnamed Microsoft executive (which Scott himself hastens to say «at Bill Gates») who claimed, early last decade, that he was developing a tablet that would revolutionize the world of computing. Apparently, the CEO thought the statement was a joke and began to list all the reasons why Microsoft’s bet (which never came to fruition at least a few years ago) would not work. Jobs and his employees came to the conclusion that they could do something better.
The first version of the project was, in Jobs’ most ?non-technological? style, a table in a room at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, a table on which it was possible to move a photo printed with your fingers. This was the ultimate goal: to create a tangible, easy and familiar interface even for the uninitiated in the computer world. And so it was: Ma was building prototypes on top of prototypes, in increasingly smaller sizes, and perfecting the adapted system of Mac OS X that years later we know as iOS.
At the same time, Apple was changing: from a computer company, it became an electronics company with the iPod as the flagship. After that, Jobs, Forstall and the team started to discuss what would be the ?next big thing?, the product that would swallow the iPod and take the world, and the answer was very clear: the cell phone. But the smartphones in the pockets of those executives and engineers were terrible and offered a terrible use experience.
Then, Forstall recalled, the click came on the head of the genie: it might be possible to take that tablet design and shrink it until it fit in a pocket. The rest is history.
The engineer interview, moreover, sheds light on some fun or curious stories from the time of iPhone development. For example, on a certain occasion, Jobs and Forstall went to Las Vegas to present a prototype of the iPhone to Stan Sigman, then CEO of Cingular Wireless (operator that had the exclusivity of the device at the time of its launch and soon afterwards was phagocyted by ATT) at the legendary Four Seasons hotel. Forstall was concerned that the cell phone signal would fail, so he preferred to use the hotel’s Wi-Fi for the demonstration but the problem came: access was paid and there was a possibility that the registration system would not work on the device. The engineer then called the hotel disguised as a Cingular executive and, considering that it was impossible to release the connection only to that device (about which he could not say any information, of course), convinced the management to make the Wi – Free WiFi for all users.
In a brief point of the interview, Forstall also spoke about the scheumorfismo, interface paradigm defended by him and Jobs and totally disowned by Apple after the departure of the first and death of the second. Apparently, the engineer had no idea what the word meant and he heard it for the first time in the interview itself (!), But the reasons for its use at the beginning of iOS are understandable: according to him, the iPhone interface had to be ?photoilustrative, metafrica, emptic?. Forstall ?didn’t love?, according to his words, all part of the system, but the design worked, according to him (and, for that matter, I think none of us can deny).
· ? ·
Overall, Forstall seemed to speak of his years at Apple with great sympathy, and undeniably his words sound like those of someone who knew what he was doing very well (even though not everyone agreed with his ideas). That said, it is impossible not to notice a question hanging in the air: what would be different about Ma today if he had stayed there?
Certainly, from a visual point of view, a lot. But in a broader aspect, in terms of attitude and product lines, I venture to say that things would also be quite different if for better or worse, you never know.
One thing for certain: Forstall said he was not working on anything related to technology at the moment, but nowhere in the interview did he claim to be retired from the business. So would the giant doors of the Apple Park ?spaceship? ever be open to him?