iOS chief Scott Forstall profiled as a 'maddeningly political' mini-Steve Jobs

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple senior vice president of iOS softwareÂ*Scott Forstall is hailed in a new interview asÂ*a polarizing genius, and potentially what the company needs to continue its remarkable growth story in a post-Jobs era.



In a comprehensive look at how the company's youngest senior executive rose through the ranks at Apple, Businessweek contrasts Forstall's many attributes with, what the magazine calls, his "polarizing" features. He is a man who has both won the loyalty and respect of his staff, and the ire of several current and former Apple executives. The magazine describes him, in many ways, as a mini-Steve Jobs.



The magazine notes that while Forstall is brilliant at identifying what he wants, and how to get it, the senior VP is difficult to work with, and has allegedly prompted the departure of several high-ranking executives over the years. Similarly frustrated engineers from his iOS team have also quit, said one magazine source.



"I once referred to Scott as Apple's chief a-hole," said former Apple software engineer Mike Lee. "And I don't mean it as a criticism. I meant it as a compliment. You could say the same thing about Steve Jobs."



Businessweek argues that ForstallÂ*possesses the charisma, managerial skills, and tireless negotiating tactics that Apple needs to help lead Apple following the passing of its co-founder.



Forstall grew up in a middle-class family in Kitsap County, Wash., the second of three boys born to a nurse and an engineer. He excelled scholastically, participating in various clubs and contests, and had a knack for computer programming. Forstall graduated co-valedictorian from his high school, boasting a perfect 4.0 GPA. His valedictorian counterpart is now his wife, Molly.



After receiving an undergraduate degree from Stanford University in symbolic systems, an interdisciplinary department that combined classes in philosophy, linguistics and computer science, followed by a master's degree in computer science, Forstall joined Jobs' NeXT Computer. His job entailed work on the company's operating system, and led him to design user interfaces for the retooled Macintosh line when Apple bought NeXT in 1996. This was the year Jobs returned as interim CEO of Apple after being ousted in 1985 from the company he had co-founded in 1976.



By 2000, Forstall was a leading designer of Aqua, the Mac UI that featured water-themed visuals such as translucent icons. Later he would manage the group of developers that created the Leopard version of the OS.



A critical stage in Forstall's career came in 2005, when Apple and Jobs were in the process of creating the first iPhone. Jobs was faced with the dilemma of choosing which software would run on the future device, being either a Linux-based system from the team that built the iPod, or a stripped-down version of the Mac OS. Businessweek describes Jobs' choices as either shrinking the Mac, or enlarging the iPod. According to the magazine, Jobs preferred the former because it would give Apple a highly customizable mobile OS, able to be used in future products.Â*



In classic Jobs fashion, he pitted the two teams against each other, with Forstall leading a 15 member team in the Mac approach, against then-iPod chief Tony Fadell and his team. Inter-office politics flared as Forstall was reported to have stolen top talent from the opposing team, and refused to share early versions of what would become iOS. He religiously followed Jobs' obsession with secrecy, even among company departments.



With his OS shipping on the first iPhone in 2007, and Apple's goal for software to be completely integrated with its hardware, Forstall's strength grew within the company. Because of Apple's mantra of seamless software and hardware co-existence, hardware engineers couldn't add new features without going through Forstall's engineers. Thus, if he didn't like the idea, it was vetoed.



By 2008, when he was promoted to senior vice-president, Forstall had the reputation of making sure his accomplishments were noticed, blaming others for failures, reports Businessweek. According to the magazine, some former associates say Forstall routinely takes credit for collaborative successes, deflects blame for mistakes, and is "maddeningly political. "



Steve Jobs takes the stage from Scott Forstall at WWDC | source: ibtimes.com



Though even critics are quick to point out that Forstall is a great troubleshooter, citing the introduction of an ecosystem for third-party developers to create apps for the iPhone. The device was initially closed and Jobs viewed the device as a standout, as it combined a phone with an iPod and a web-browser. The thought then was that Forstall's team would partner with market leaders such as Google to create apps built specifically for the device.Â*



When consumers began unlocking their iPhones to run unauthorized apps, though, Forstall oversaw the creation of a software developer's kit and what would become the App Store, so that Apple could leverage the new trend.Â*He was first earnestly thrown into the public eye in June 2009, when he was tasked with delivering a large portion of a keynote during one of Jobs' medical leaves. Although not as charismatic as Jobs, he did prove to be capable of holding his own on stage.Â*



The 2010 iPhone 4 prototype fiasco forced Forstall into a corner, as he was responsible for persuading Jobs to allow the prototypes to be tested in public. To add to the serious breach of secrecy, the main reason behind Forstall's idea to let the phone out in the open turned out to be unsuccessful. The iPhone 4 dropped calls due to an alleged flaw with the software and antenna design, and turned into a target for customer complaints.



Forstall survived that debacle and Apple has since given him authority over quality assurance and testing.Â*



The company has good reason to lay so much faith in the iOS chief, as over a quarter billion devices running his iOS have been sold to date. The devices account for 70 percent of Apple's revenues.



It's also suggested byÂ*BusinessweekÂ*that Apple may have more need for Forstall than he does for them. Over the past ten years, he sold about 237,000 shares worth over $42.5 million, according to regulatory filings. On the other hand, Apple needs Forstall's gravity in the development community to draw programmers toward iOS, and not competing platforms like Google's Android. He has control of the development tools and processes that make iOS so popular, and thus has the ear of many developers.



In the end, Forstall is seen as an asset by many, though the magazine profiles him as a young Steve Jobs, "scorching the earth behind him while retaining a remarkable ability to come out ahead."



Jobs and Forstall were close, remarks the magazine's sources, with Jobs taking pride in the young executive. Forstall may be Apple's best hope at preserving the legacy of Jobs, and it's suggested that perhaps Jobs saw that as well. At Apple's World Wide Developers Concerence in June, Jobs referred to Forstall's software as the "soul" of Apple's products. Later in the keynote, Forstall detailed the latest version of iOS, and when passing by the late CEO as he walked off stage, the audience could hear Jobs say, "good job."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 88
    ajitmdajitmd Posts: 365member
    Unfortunately, most of corporate America is like that... play hardball. Microsoft, Google, ExxonMobil, etc, are no less. Many times, it is not necessary, especially internally in the company.



    Not complaining on the stock. Hopefully it is appreciating faster than the USD is depreciating.
  • Reply 2 of 88
    macrrmacrr Posts: 488member
    Seems like a guy we'd want to stay at apple... he certainly has stage charisma, understands his products and how to make people interested in them. He absolutely sold siri to me when I watched the keynote.



    He's been a part of some very impressive things at apple, and like steve jobs said- the good ideas have to win. his ideas have become awesome products... especially with ios5. Given the natural selection type of battle he had to fight within apple, I'd say he's got the fight in him to propel apple going forward.
  • Reply 3 of 88
    That guy is spooky looking, zero charisma.
  • Reply 4 of 88
    jensonbjensonb Posts: 528member
    I've been saying it this whole time. Forstall is Apple's next big thing. When Cook is eventually done as the CEO, Forstall is the guy.
  • Reply 5 of 88
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,483member
    Surprisingly I felt heartened when I read this. Someone to possibly carry the torch.
  • Reply 6 of 88
    rtm135rtm135 Posts: 310member
    Even though SJ is irreplaceable, I've been saying for years that Scott is extremely charismatic, has a great stage presence, and should be the only guy on stage during Apple product announcements.



    Tim Cook's genius lies elsewhere, but it's not on the stage.
  • Reply 7 of 88
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Forstall had the reputation of making sure his accomplishments were noticed, blaming others for failures, reports Businessweek. According to the magazine, some former associates say Forstall routinely takes credit for collaborative successes, deflects blame for mistakes, and is "maddeningly political. "



    That's not a great character trait. That's precisely how the shit floats to the top of most companies.



    Anyhow, I'm not gonna judge him by that. 'spooky looking' definitely (!) , but I quite like him, he is intriguingly odd, and clearly quite talented.
  • Reply 8 of 88
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,747member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post


    Surprisingly I felt heartened when I read this. Someone to possibly carry the torch.



    I wonder how he would look in a black turtleneck?
  • Reply 9 of 88
    Wait isn't this article just a copy and paste of the entire Businessweek article. Is that even legal/ethical?
  • Reply 10 of 88
    If I wanted to run Apple I'd wait until a week after SJ died, then use my contacts and money to run an article to give people the impression that I was basically the next Steve. I'd throw in a few unflattering statements to make it look like I wasnt involved and scare off my competition. But that's just me.



    Kidding aside, good luck to everyone up there.
  • Reply 11 of 88
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    Forstall had the best stage presence at the 4S keynote. However I don't know if serious situation with Steve at the time impacted other executives, but they felt a bit more cold and somber, again we now know why, but at the time it was painful to watch.



    Since iOS is the future of apple, I think Forstall can continue to come up with awesome software innovation, and Johnny Ives needs to come up with a new design. We can than have Cook work to lower the price points and apple keeps ticking.



    If I was apple though I would be frequenting Stanford and MIT monthly looking for fresh product ideas, as it would take an army of talented people to come up with that next it product.
  • Reply 12 of 88
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member
    Ok so the guy has talent. Lets see what he has to offer in the next 10 years. Will him and cook get along?? We will see.
  • Reply 13 of 88
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post


    Ok so the guy has talent. Lets see what he has to offer in the next 10 years. Will him and cook get along?? We will see.



    It is said that Jony Ive would meet Forstall only in the presence of Tim Cook. So Cook and Forestall may be lot closer than you think
  • Reply 14 of 88
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post


    Ok so the guy has talent. Lets see what he has to offer in the next 10 years. Will him and cook get along?? We will see.



    Ah...but is he a visionary?



    The genius of Steve was in being able to see far into the future what products people might need. Can Scott do that? Still, I think Apple has very talented managers. I hope Tim is able to keep them together.
  • Reply 15 of 88
    pokepoke Posts: 506member
    iOS is probably one of the most successful software projects in history. I can't remember a single thing they've done wrong over the course of its development and this year was the first time its release was delayed (if iOS was the reason for the delay, it might not have been). Compare that with OS X where there's always a host of ugly (or at least polarising) new features, weird choices, feature regression and many more bugs than I've ever experienced with iOS. Obviously Forstall knows what he's doing.
  • Reply 16 of 88
    ikolikol Posts: 369member
    Wannabe.

    I'd prefer Schiller over him any day. Too much like Disney's Katzenberg.
  • Reply 17 of 88
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Y.M.S.BUSHAN View Post


    It is said that Jony Ive would meet Forstall only in the presence of Tim Cook. So Cook and Forestall may be lot closer than you think



    Mix Ive, Cook and Forestall in a blender... and then, and only then, would you have something close to Steve.
  • Reply 18 of 88
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rtm135 View Post


    Even though SJ is irreplaceable, I've been saying for years that Scott is extremely charismatic, has a great stage presence, and should be the only guy on stage during Apple product announcements.



    Tim Cook's genius lies elsewhere, but it's not on the stage.



    Been saying it for years? It's only in the last 2 or 3 years that he has taken the stage.



    But no question, he is the best presenter of the lot. The reason goes beyond the presenter's gift (which not everyone has).



    More than any other reason, Steve Jobs was a compelling presence on stage because he treated the products like his babies, his creations, which they were. He clearly had used them, tested them before showcasing them. He clearly had input into major features. He also knew when to defer to experts when the truly geeky specs had to be presented.



    Phil Schiller and Tim Cook do not play a large part in product design. They do not, and cannot speak of the products with the same pride. Schiler stutters over technical details when introducing a product. He has to look at the prompter far more often than Jobs or Forstall.



    Forstall oozes passion on stage because he sees iOS as his baby, which it is. He probably is increasingly seeing iPhone as his baby, even though Ive might not like this. But Jobs was right - iOS is the soul of the little machine.



    With Serlet having left Apple, how long will it be before Forstall takes over MacOS as well?
  • Reply 19 of 88
    ikolikol Posts: 369member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by island hermit View Post


    Mix Ive, Cook and Forestall in a blender... and then, and only then, would you have something close to Steve.



    Sorry but none of them could get me inspired to want to buy something I didn't have or didn't know I needed like SJ could. Schiller could. The others are terrible showman.
  • Reply 20 of 88
    I wrote my experience with Scott on MacRumors when this story broke.



    I will add that the most charismatic guy who is now on stage at WWDC and always was way more charismatic and equally brilliant is Craig Federighi.



    He was one of the guys who created EOF 2.x and knows the ins/outs of every bit of Cocoa. He also gave the main keynote on the Frameworks at WWDC 2011.



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