Scott Forstall, his role in Apple’s success and the striking similarities to Steve Jobs

Businessweek has written an extensive article about Scott Forstall, iOS’ Vice President of Development , in which we discover all sorts of interesting details about his meteoric rise in the company’s hierarchy and surprising similarities with Steve Jobs ; the magazine defines him as none other than the mini-Steve . Let’s see some of the most interesting points…

  • At 42, he is Apple’s youngest senior executive.
  • Since Jobs’ departure, Forstall has become one of the most important and visible members of the Apple team. He is in charge of the mobile software division, which includes the development of the iOS operating system, the soul of the iPhone and iPad and source of 70% of the company’s revenue.
  • He’s as obsessed with details as Jobs was. He also has the same ability to translate technical language into Christianity and even drives a silver Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, the exact same model as the company’s co-founder on the block. And yes, he also has his own stamp when it comes to dressing up on stage: American pants, black sweater with a zipper and shoes that are also black (although outside of him, for the office, he prefers Hawaiian shirts of the Reyn Spooner brand).
  • More importantly, another resemblance to Jobs is what his peers describe as “a polarizing figure”; a euphemism for the intense loyalty he arouses in many of his subordinates, while at the same time he has been responsible for not a few resignations among senior executives, who found him difficult to work with.
  • He graduated from Stanford University with the highest grade in 1992, joining Jobs at NeXT Computer where he helped lay the foundation for Mac OS X. When the company was acquired by Apple in 1996 and Jobs returned as interim CEO, Forstall was tasked with working on the design of the Mac user interface. Later, he would lead the team that developed the acclaimed 10.5 Leopard release.
  • During its ascent, especially during the long and arduous process of creating the iPhone, Forstall made many enemies. Around 2005, Jobs was faced with a crucial decision: who would develop the device’s software; would he entrust it to the team that built the iPod, which wanted to create a Linux-based system; or would he rely on the engineers who had polished the Mac operating system? In other words, should I fatten up the iPod or thin out Mac OS X? Apple’s co-founder’s solution was to bring the two teams face to face. Forstall led a team of less than 15 engineers dedicated to lightening Mac OS X to see if they could make it run on a device that was considerably less powerful and had much less battery life than ordinary computers. Leading the other team was Tony Fadell, another Apple child prodigy and one of the key figures in the creation of the iPod who at the time had become one of the company’s youngest senior vice presidents at just 36. I don’t have to tell you who won. In 2008, the year after the introduction of the original iPhone, Fadell resigned and Forstall was promoted to senior vice president.
  • Forstall knows how to motivate his subordinates. Its engineers are among the company’s most dedicated workers, and they often skip the traditional Friday night brew at Apple for long programming sessions. In fact, here we find another common thread in Jobs’ personality during his first stint at Apple, when he pitted the development team of the first Macintosh against those of the Lisa, taking a pirate flag as his emblem and even keeping his progress a secret from the rest of the company. Something similar happens with Forstall and his team, instilling that “you’re Apple’s elite” feeling.
  • He is said to have a tense relationship with other members of the management team, including designer Jonathan Ive and the head of Mac hardware engineering, Bob Mansfield. If the gossip is correct, it goes so far that both refuse to meet with him unless Tim Cook is present.
  • Its name appears on half a hundred patents covering everything from the way icons are distributed on the iPhone screen to the method of turning off a device with the flick of a finger. In one of the most important iOS patents for a gesture-controlled touch device, he is listed as the second inventor, right after “Steven P. Jobs.
  • Many former colleagues have recognized his ability to adapt quickly, giving as an example the change in policy since the launch of the iPhone, originally designed in a much more closed way, without third-party applications, and the speed with which he managed to put the development kit that marked the birth of the App Store on the street. “He knows what he wants and he has the momentum to get it,” said AT&T’s CTO. Forstall’s flexibility impresses even its rivals. According to Google Vice President Vic Gundotra, “Scott is an amazing guy. In terms of managing an operating system development team, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
  • Businessweek

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    And finally, a couple of funny anecdotes. Bruce, his older brother, has worked as a senior software design engineer for Microsoft for 20 years. Can you imagine his conversations during family meetings?

  • Steve Jobs used to constantly bug him, reminding him of “that science experiment”. He was of course referring to the WWDC 2009 keynote when Forstall tried to show an application with which he was able to perform scientific experiments by inflating a balloon with a valve controlled by the iPhone. Something went wrong, and Forstall had to go out of its way to inflate it by itself.


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