Apple began "Project Purple" because Steve Jobs hated Microsoft exec, says Scott Forstall

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2017
In his first public interview since leaving Apple in 2012, former head of iOS development Scott Forstall provided commentary on his background, the first iPhone and his relationship with company cofounder Steve Jobs.




Speaking with John Markoff, formerly of the New York Times, Forstall offered a timeline of events leading up to his contribution to "Project Purple," the secret internal initiative that ultimately resulted in the first iPhone.

Forstall took a shine to computing after experimenting with his brother's TRS-80. His coding prowess landed him a job developing programs the U.S. Navy used to test the structural integrity of aircraft carriers. In high school, Forstall graduated to developing parts of weapons systems used in submarines carrying Trident Ballistic Missiles.

From there, Forstall went on to study computer related fields with a concentration in artificial intelligence at Stanford University. It was after obtaining his master's degree that he had to make the choice between working at Microsoft, where he had interned during college, and NeXT.

Through a series of unmentioned events, Jobs himself ended up interviewing Forstall in 1992. The two found common ground on a number of topics and Forstall ultimately opted to work at NeXT despite the company's shaky financial standing.

Apple purchased NeXT in 1997, bringing Jobs, Forstall and a slew of talented engineers on board.

"At some point Steve decided Apple needed us," Forstall said of NeXT.

It was when Forstall was working on Mac OS X running releases that Project Purple was born.

According to the former executive, it was Jobs' hatred of a particular Microsoft executive that sparked his interest in tablet computing. Jobs' wife Laurene had a friend whose husband worked for Microsoft, Forstall said. This unnamed executive apparently rubbed Jobs the wrong way on multiple occasions, but it was one meeting in particular that set the tech guru off.

Microsoft was developing a tablet platform based on stylus interactions that was cutting edge for the time. The unnamed executive "shoved it in Steve's face" that the technology would "rule the world." Pooh-poohing the notion of a stylus first user interface, Jobs decided to challenge Microsoft with Apple's own solution.

Dubbed Project Purple, the idea was to create a computing system that involved human touch without relying on extraneous hardware. In particular, engineers were developing a multitouch user interface based on interactions with capacitive touch sensing screens.

It was around this time that Apple was morphing from a computer company to an electronics company.

"Half our sales were iPods, so we were turning into a consumer electronics company," Forstall said. Apple was looking toward the horizon at new technologies that had the potential of disrupting iPod and the broader digital music market. Phones, or more specifically smartphones, seemed to be a prime contender.

Forstall recalled how he and Jobs were sitting at lunch one day with their phones. They both hated the clunky interfaces offered by market leaders like Blackberry, Forstall said, and looking at nearby tables so did the people around them. Jobs asked if Forstall and his team could make a multitouch demo on hardware small enough to fit in a pocket. And so came the first visions of iPhone.

The former Apple exec went on to detail meetings with key industry contacts, including the first iPhone demo for Cingular Wireless CEO Stan Sigman.

On a more personal note, Forstall revealed Jobs saved his life in the early 2000s. Around 2004, Forstall contracted a stomach virus from his children. The ailment turned into a much more serious condition that had Forstall constantly vomiting. Over the course of two months, the executive lost some 60 pounds and was hospitalized, with medical staff forced to feed him through a tube.

During the ordeal Jobs would call on a daily basis, checking in and offering non-traditional health advice.

"And one night at about 10 o'clock at night -- this is now months into it -- Steve calls and says, 'I have the best acupuncturist in the world and I'm going to bring her to you tonight and she's going to fix you," Forstall said.

The unconventional treatment worked.

Forstall's commentary was the closing act in a two-part interview at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. Before Forstall took the stage, three former Apple engineers -- Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz -- talked with Markoff about their contribution to iPhone. The entire two-hour chat can be viewed below.



Forstall ended the evening by thanking everyone in the audience who had participated in creating iPhone, iPad and iOS.

"It's not one person, or even four people," Forstall said. "It was hundreds and thousands of people who made it happen."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,337moderator
    I thought that 'unnamed' exec was actually named.  Was that in one of the Jobs bios?  Or somewhere else I read about that encounter between Jobs and the Microsoft exec?  Somewhere back in time I'm pretty sure I recall hearing the story and the exec was named.  Maybe I'm wrong.  
  • Reply 2 of 40

    So the first trigger was the Microsoft exec, which started the development of a touch-based tablet.

    The next trigger was the then-current phone experience that got Job thinking of shrinking down the tablet to a phone!

    I'm planning to catch the interview soon.


    I remember reading an article about the drinking game when the iPhone demo was going on. That was one of the most interesting articles I ever read. The demo, of course, was a watershed moment.


    watto_cobraalbegarcanton zuykov
  • Reply 4 of 40
    The story about the Microsoft Exec was in the authorized Biography. Though I don't know if it was as clear in there that it was the husband of his wife's friend. Overall this made me remember just how much I adore Scott.
    albegarc
  • Reply 5 of 40
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    lkruppbrucemc
  • Reply 6 of 40
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 594member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    Except that the iPad still doesn't rely on a stylus. Other than that, sure. 
    firelockmike1Solipeterhartcalitdknoxwlymstompyretrogustoasdasd
  • Reply 7 of 40
    originalgoriginalg Posts: 380member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    Or whatever company created the Newton
    slprescottiqatedoSolitmaycalitdknoxsphericwlymretrogustozoetmb
  • Reply 8 of 40
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,710member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...

    Typical ignorant comment.

    It had nothing to about HAVING a stylus, it was about NEEDING one to use the device. The entire user interface was designed with that principle in mind. Furthermore, removing the need for a stylus lead to the developement of being able to use multiple fingers for interaction rather than a single point of contact that a stylus would have brought, thus unleashing multi-touch on the masses.

    Second I'd also like to point out that Apple had the Newton. A product released some 15 years before the iPhone, that used a stylus as a primary method of input.
    iqatedoSolitmaychabigtdknoxwlymronnStrangeDaysviclauyyc
  • Reply 9 of 40
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,115member
    mjtomlin said:
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...

    Typical ignorant comment.

    It had nothing to about HAVING a stylus, it was about NEEDING one to use the device. The entire user interface was designed with that principle in mind. Furthermore, removing the need for a stylus lead to the developement of being able to use multiple fingers for interaction rather than a single point of contact that a stylus would have brought, thus unleashing multi-touch on the masses.

    Second I'd also like to point out that Apple had the Newton. A product released some 15 years before the iPhone, that used a stylus as a primary method of input.
    That said, it would not be incorrect to say that the Mini was never on the original roadmap, in fact it was even scoffed at as a possibility.

    When it eventually arrived, we saw the interface struggle with finger input. It still does of course but it would be hard to 'sell' a stylus for general use after claiming that a stylus was needed from a design perspective. It would be nice to see more work put into resolving finger input issues (screen overlays, larger temporary screen elements etc) instead of making things 'pretty'.



  • Reply 10 of 40
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 2,755member
    originalg said:
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    Or whatever company created the Newton
    The Newton that Steve Jobs killed.
    avon b7brucemc
  • Reply 11 of 40
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,247member
    I think this was a lovely chat. Great to see mr Forstall up there, sharing a bit of his own personality, and story. I always thought it such a shame that he was squeezed out. I guess there's a lot we don't know about what went on behind the scenes.
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 12 of 40
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,913member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    The Apple pen isn’t a stylus?
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 13 of 40
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    Samsung makes iPhone and iPad knockoffs. This comment makes absolutely zero sense except that it stinks Apple-hating media.

    I guess Shamesung has to pay some websites to mold idiots like yourself. 
    lostkiwiStrangeDaysviclauyyc
  • Reply 14 of 40
    tmaytmay Posts: 2,584member
    avon b7 said:
    mjtomlin said:
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...

    Typical ignorant comment.

    It had nothing to about HAVING a stylus, it was about NEEDING one to use the device. The entire user interface was designed with that principle in mind. Furthermore, removing the need for a stylus lead to the developement of being able to use multiple fingers for interaction rather than a single point of contact that a stylus would have brought, thus unleashing multi-touch on the masses.

    Second I'd also like to point out that Apple had the Newton. A product released some 15 years before the iPhone, that used a stylus as a primary method of input.
    That said, it would not be incorrect to say that the Mini was never on the original roadmap, in fact it was even scoffed at as a possibility.

    When it eventually arrived, we saw the interface struggle with finger input. It still does of course but it would be hard to 'sell' a stylus for general use after claiming that a stylus was needed from a design perspective. It would be nice to see more work put into resolving finger input issues (screen overlays, larger temporary screen elements etc) instead of making things 'pretty'.



    You response doesn't make any sense.

    No one in this thread even made a comment about the Mini, and you certainly don't appear to have an understanding of multitouch. A stylus isn't ever going to be for "general use" on a multitouch device. The fact that Apple has created a stylus for precision input requiring low latency, tilt, and pressure, and only to date on the iPad Pro, demonstrates that Apple applies a great deal of effort to underlying technology before release in a product. Your comment about "resolving finger input issues" would have more impact if you didn't personally have this adoration for all things Android OS that has, to date, been unable to even field an iPad Pro competitor, let alone even an iPad competitor.

    It's appears to be just a fountain of words that you, yet again, spewed out to create a wonderful word salad, that unfortunately, smells of poo.

    Here'a a link to the video of the event, from experts who were there;


    edited June 2017 ronnStrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 40
    On a more personal note, Forstall revealed Jobs saved his life in the early 2000s. Around 2004, Forstall contracted a stomach virus from his children. The ailment turned into a much more serious condition that had Forstall constantly vomiting. Over the course of two months, the executive lost some 60 pounds and was hospitalized, with medical staff forced to feed him through a tube.

    During the ordeal Jobs would call on a daily basis, checking in and offering non-traditional health advice.

    "And one night at about 10 o'clock at night -- this is now months into it -- Steve calls and says, 'I have the best acupuncturist in the world and I'm going to bring her to you tonight and she's going to fix you," Forstall said.

    The unconventional treatment worked.

    From what I know, This faith is unconventional medicine would unfortunately ultimately contribute to Jobs death. He pursued non-traditional medical treatments for his pancreatic cancer, which was not the aggressive death sentence type until it was too late for traditional medicine to treat it effectively. 
    sphericwlymidlewanderlusttokyojimuStrangeDaysviclauyyc
  • Reply 16 of 40
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,155member
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    The salient part is that they got the order right—touch interface first, then stylus as adjunct. Now go away, troll. 
    sphericronnStrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 40
    wlymwlym Posts: 50member
    lkrupp said:
    Only for Apple to eventually emulate Microsoft - and Samsung - to add the stylus to the iPad anyway ...
    The Apple pen isn’t a stylus?
    To find out for sure, take one of each, insert deeeeep into nostrils, and tell us if they feel the same. Pictures or it didn't happen. Science!
    jony0
  • Reply 18 of 40
    vesalius said:
    On a more personal note, Forstall revealed Jobs saved his life in the early 2000s. Around 2004, Forstall contracted a stomach virus from his children. The ailment turned into a much more serious condition that had Forstall constantly vomiting. Over the course of two months, the executive lost some 60 pounds and was hospitalized, with medical staff forced to feed him through a tube.

    During the ordeal Jobs would call on a daily basis, checking in and offering non-traditional health advice.

    "And one night at about 10 o'clock at night -- this is now months into it -- Steve calls and says, 'I have the best acupuncturist in the world and I'm going to bring her to you tonight and she's going to fix you," Forstall said.

    The unconventional treatment worked.

    From what I know, This faith is unconventional medicine would unfortunately ultimately contribute to Jobs death. He pursued non-traditional medical treatments for his pancreatic cancer, which was not the aggressive death sentence type until it was too late for traditional medicine to treat it effectively. 
    One of Steve's Doctors who treated him, actually wrote an article explaining while his own treatments were unconventional, the outcome wouldn't have changed much due to the aggressiveness of his cancer. He surmised that Steve was exposed to chemicals that cause cancer during his early days working with printed circuit boards. The chemicals that were used to clean them were very caustic and later on were found to cause cancer. This is where the Dr. thought Steve contracted it. By the time it metastasized to his organs, it was too late. 
    If it was caught many many years prior he might have had a better chance of surviving. 

    Im sorry I don't have the link anymore, but it was a sad read. 
    zoetmblostkiwiStrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 40
    mrshowmrshow Posts: 149member
    "And one night at about 10 o'clock at night -- this is now months into it -- Steve calls and says, 'I have the best acupuncturist in the world and I'm going to bring her to you tonight and she's going to fix you," Forstall said.
    Yeah, it was the the acupuncture.  #eyeroll
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 40
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,508member
    mrshow said:
    "And one night at about 10 o'clock at night -- this is now months into it -- Steve calls and says, 'I have the best acupuncturist in the world and I'm going to bring her to you tonight and she's going to fix you," Forstall said.
    Yeah, it was the the acupuncture.  #eyeroll
    If you watch Forstall's account of what happened, yep. 
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