Former head of iOS, Scott Forstall, opens up about how Apple’s iconic device came from late CEO’s dislike for the husband of one of his wife’s friends
If it wasn’t for one particular executive at Microsoft, whom Steve Jobs seemingly hated with a passion, Apple may never have created the iPhone or iPad.
Recounting the story of the birth of the iPhone at a talk at the Computer History Museum in California, former Apple iOS chief Scott Forstall said: “The iPhone had a very circuitous route. We’d been working on a tablet project.
“It began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft. Any time Steve had any interaction with the guy, he’d come back pissed off.”
The unnamed Microsoft executive, who was apparently the husband of a friend of Jobs’s wife Laurene Powell Jobs, continuously talked and bragged about Redmond-based company’s plans for tablets and styluses, so much so that Jobs decided to try and beat him.
After being badgered by the Microsoft executive over dinner for the 10th time, being told how Microsoft was going to change the world with its tablet PC software and stylus and that Apple should just license it, Jobs lost patience and, as recounted in Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography, said: “Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be”.
Despite the iPad having the Apple Pencil today, Jobs famously hated styluses. Forstall recounted Jobs as saying: “You don’t use a stylus ... we’re born with 10 styluses”.
During the development of the iPad, which began as a table-sized multi-touch prototype on which you could move photos with your fingers codenamed “project purple”, Apple identified that smartphones were becoming a threat to its iPod business and so diverted efforts towards what was to become the iPhone.
Forstall recounted Jobs saying: “‘Do you think you could take that demo that we’re doing with the tablet and the multi-touch and shrink it down to something small enough to fit in your pocket?’
“We went back to the design team and they took it and they carved out a corner of it,” said Forstall. “Steve saw it and said ‘put the tablet on hold, let’s build a phone.’ And that’s what we did.”
The original iPhone wasn’t as well received by reviewers as you might expect at the time of its release in 2007, who were rating it against the number of clicks to get to certain things.
Forstall said: “It was being compared against other smartphones of the time, BlackBerry etc, according to the metrics people thought were important at the time.
“What they didn’t get was we were changing the entire paradigm. We were changing the entire way things were done.”
Initial sales were good, but not exceptional. After spending time with one in the real world, Forstall said he and the rest of Apple could see it was going to be huge one day.
Forstall also touched on his personal sickness in the early 2000s from an obscure virus, which was apparently cured when nothing else would do the trick by Jobs’s acupuncturist. Forstall, who was infamous at Apple for being the person who pushed the use of computer interfaces that appeared like real-life objects, also revealed he had “never heard of skeuomorphism” at the time.