back to article Peak Apple: Forstall was 'closest thing to Jobs they had left'

Ejected iOS chief Scott Forstall was an "asshole" and Apple's "closest approximation" to Steve Jobs, according to a former senior employee. Ex-Apple engineer Michael Lopp took to his personal website to swipe wildly at the Cupertino giant for striving to become a happy-clappy collaborative organisation, something Jobs would …


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  1. Lallabalalla

    Seems about right. Apple ruled by committee = the death of Apple

    I love the fact that the highest recommendation for Forstall is "he's an asshole".

    Without an asshole Apple can't do shit, apparently :)

    1. h 6

      Re: Seems about right. Apple ruled by committee = the death of Apple

      Anything ruled by committee = death to anything.

  2. Austin Montego

    Perhaps some people are motivated by fear but I don't see it, myself.

    I've seen it kill teams and stifle otherwise good products. It works where a team of less-than-great people come together under a dictator, benevolent or otherwise, who has a strong vision and a stronger temper. It can't last, though, because the dictator is fallible and mortal. It also pushes away talented people who find they can work somewhere there isn't an arsehole making their lives a misery.

  3. Esskay

    Cut the head off the snake...

    Such control from someone as "visionary" as Steve Jobs means that when he leaves there's a big gap at the top - the bigger the control freak, the bigger the gap. From all the stories, Jobs was the biggest control freak there was, and Forstall was the closest they had to bridging the gap. Presumably the race to fill that void meant that a bunch of smaller fish all took bites out of the bigger one - giving themselves a much greater chance of getting to the top, but a much smaller chance for the company to be able to fill the void.

  4. kyza

    Didn't this happen to Apple the last time Jobs left the place? Went from $$$s to a basket case, Jobs comes back and *bang!* you've got the iMac, iPod and lotsa slimshiny things?

    1. Mage Silver badge


      It's unlikely that Jobs will be back again.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: But

        Shh. Don't tell the fanboiz.

      2. Tony Paulazzo

        Re: But

        >It's unlikely that Jobs will be back again.<

        Maybe Forstall will fulfil the role of returning messiah and lead them, once more, out of the wilderness.

    2. Caltharian

      Actually with both Apple and Pixar it was the otherway around, both companies turned themselves around dramatically only after getting rid of Jobs

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Pixar, really?

        Find one reference to Jobs being bad for Pixar, go on, I dare you. He put millions into the company, and eventually played led it to being bought by Disney for $7.4 billion, at which point he left as Pixar's CEO and joined Disney' board of directors. Seems he left them on a high. If you have a link to support your claim, I'd be glad to read it.

      2. LucasAOTW

        Caltharian, can you expand on your comment? What I know is just the opposite. Which years (and/or incidents) are you talking about?

        1. Kristian Walsh


          I don't think it's the same. Apple became very successful after kicking out Steve Jobs the first time. With Jobs gone, Apple developed Macintosh from a simple appliance into a range of computers that you could use to do real work, and they were richly rewarded for it. In a market where you chose between text-based DOS systems and Unix workstations costing $20,000+, Apple managed to carve out a very profitable chunk (and in a huge change to today, made their channel partners rich too).

          Until.... Microsoft arrived with Windows. Apple didn't have an answer for the "good enough" UI running on far cheaper hardware that Microsoft were offering. Instead, Apple had wasted their lead on a series of failed "blue-sky" projects (Pink/Taligent, Copland, OpenDoc, Dylan), re-inventing other people's perfectly-servicable wheels (AppleLink, OpenTransport), offering technology the market didn't need (Newton, QuickDraw GX) and failing to monetise the stuff that the market did (QuickTime).

          Meanwhile, Apple's Developers were showered with APIs, a new one every few months, many of which would be killed by the time the following Developers' Conference came around, and many of these devs decided to go with the stability and incremental change that Microsoft were offering. People bet whole businesses on things like OpenDoc or QuickDrawGX - brand loyalty doesn't compensate for being put out of business when the technology you depend on isn't delivered, or has the plug pulled on it.

          I saw the end of this period in Apple, and the start of Jobs's reign until things started to turn around for Apple.

          Having Jobs, rather than Scully/Spindler/Amelio, in charge might have helped Apple during this time, but I don't believe so. This was a technology-driven market, and technology was something Jobs didn't care about for its own sake, but Apple's problems were technological (slower clock-speeds giving a perception of slow hardware, no cheap-to-implement peripheral interfaces, lack of pre-emptive multitasking, shared-memory OS, etc). It's telling that when he started NeXT, Jobs used a commodity OS (BSD) with a new, but bought-in, kernel rather than trying to roll his own from scratch - his skill was in managing the aesthetics and experience, not in the intricacies of how this stuff worked.

          I do see Apple declining from here, but the good news is that they've so much cash they're unlikely to disappear; plus, the last time they were in the shitter, they started to play nice with the other kids, adopting open standards and becoming interoperable with the rest of the world.

      3. Chet Mannly

        "Actually with both Apple and Pixar it was the otherway around, both companies turned themselves around dramatically only after getting rid of Jobs"

        What on earth are you on about?

        After jobs left the first time Apple turned itself around dramatically in much the same way as a plane goes from flying to plummeting when you switch its engines off - it was a smoking ruin.

        I was never a Jobs fan myself, I'm not a fan of control freaks, but there's no way you could argue that Apple was better off without him.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Didn't this happen to Apple the last time Jobs left the place?

      Difference is, of course, that this time Jobs had plenty of time to prepare the company for his departure, even having periods of seeing Tim Cook as acting CEO.

  5. Stewart McKenna
    Thumb Down

    Successful? what about Apple Maps?

  6. Ted Treen

    Latest score

    Trollfest 1: Real news 0

    1. tirk

      Trollfest 1: Real news 0

      Welcome to El Reg.

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      If you consider El Reg where you get real news from, you simply MUST share whatever it is you're smoking.

  7. LucasAOTW

    you forget an important thing

    Yes, it is quite well possible that Scott Forstall was the most similar in temperament to Steve Jobs.

    BUT, the key thing about Jobs was not that he was so difficult and sometimes unreasonable to work with (the famous a'hole factor). Being a 'challenging' leader is actually much less difficult to emulate than having taste & judgement (something that Jobs did have).

    For Jobs' success, his unique taste & judgement are something that were much more critical. E.g. take the whole skeuomorphic design discussion. Forstall was a bit right that skeuomorphic design can make the use of a product more intuitive and easy to use. And Zenlike designs that are only cool, can actually limit the customer experience if it fails to enable both an emotional and functional connection. However, the bad taste of some of the apple apps & application (e.g. Calendar, Find Friends) don't add to the simpleness / ease of use, etc., etc. It just makes them look bad and out of place.

    Even a cool design as the new Podcast app does not really fit Apple. Many iPhone users might not have seen a tape recorder in their whole life. So even in that case. The App is cool, and a great addition to the app store. But not a real Apple app!

    So is it good that Forstall is gone? Nobody can really answer that question without knowing the Apple internals. One thing is clear though. Forstall will do well in his next position. Maybe he can lead a company that will give Apple some real competition. Not one based upon copying Apple Ideas and to outpolish them, but based upon creating new product or service categories, business models, etc..

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: you forget an important thing

      'Taste' is the key word there. Jobs made computing stylish and tasteful.

      Everyone else makes appliance IT. Apple makes lifestyle IT. And for better or worse, buyers love that.

      Or at least they used to. The taste has faded after Jobs, because Cook doesn't get style - he gets thinner, smaller, lighter and Retina, which are not even close to being the same thing.

      Sculley also didn't get it, which is why Apple bombed after Jobs was ousted the first time. The Macs became boring beige boxes and Apple was on the ropes until Jobs brought OS X and the iMac. OS X 1.0 was a technical disaster but iMacs looked so cool everyone stuck with it.

      And so on.

      Ive may get it, but no one knows how much he depended on Jobs in an editorial role to steer his contribution. If he can create the magic on his own he could eventually replace Cook.

      Either way it's going to be interesting to see if he can rescue iOS and make it fresh again. I'm not convinced yet, but I'd be happy to be surprised.

    2. John 104

      Re: you forget an important thing

      "taste & judgement (something that Jobs did have)."

      Have you seen his boat?

  8. the-it-slayer

    Whaaaaaaa? Bull!

    > Another former employee took to The Guardian last week to pen a critique of Apple's latest turn. But Dan Crow - who worked at Apple in the 1990s - does blame Jobs for a lot of the problems, suggesting that his Kremlin-style top-down management only worked when he was there and has left Apple rudderless after his death:

    "Apple however is the opposite of the open, collaborative, slightly disorganised Google. It worked precisely because it was a dictatorship. But dictatorships without their dear leaders tend to fall to infighting, intrigue and inefficiency. This could be Apple's future." ®

    Dictators? How can anyone think Apple is a China? What a blunt comparison to make. If your top guys don't know what exactly the company needs to do, how does anyone else? I'm still finishing the Steve Jobs biography and to be fair, Jobs did back down on a lot of the top ideas that's propelled the company's success today

    There's a difference between a dictatorship and being passionate about your company/products. Jobs loved the ethos of bringing elegance and simplicity to IT/electronic products. The rest of the PC world didn't give a crap because they only cared about specifications and things that the average Joe doesn't even think for one split second.

    I think we'll get a rough patch for a while as Cook wants to put his own spin on the operations. How much control he has on the finished product? We don't know. However, we do know that Ive has an awful lot of control on the overall product and Jobs wanted him to have that. Jobs made the company do the impossible by pushing the boundaries no-one else dared to try. I only hope there's some people left in Apple who can do the same and not go the opposite direction towards Woz's philosophy of being too open with their products.

    If Apple does decline in any sense of the word, Cook will be out and Ive will be in at the top. He's seen it all, done it all and can take a similar stance to Jobs to ensure there's quality control at the top and not let the ants (other employees) get out of control.

    1. Chet Mannly

      Re: Whaaaaaaa? Bull!

      "Dictators? How can anyone think Apple is a China?"

      Waaa - how can ANYONE not know the difference between communisim and a dictatorship???

  9. Francis Vaughan

    Missing the point

    The idea that Apple must find a Steve clone, and that even an arsehole clone is better than no clone is fundamentally flawed. Steve is gone. There is nothing that can be done to change that. All great companies have great leadership, but the nature of that leadership changes fundamentally with changes in the leader. An attempt to maintain the past by emulating a few external attributes of the now gone leader is no better than a cargo cult. Building replicas of planes out of straw does not make the real planes arrive, and being an arsehole does not a visionary make.

    Apple's senior management have a seriously difficult task ahead of them. There will never be another Steve. One reason Steve got away with being who he was, was that he was one of the planets most wealthy people. He didn't need to do the job. He wasn't a career executive coveting the CEO position and its pay-cheque. He founded the company, and still owned a goodly slice of it. The only answer is to recognise this. Apple can't succeed by trying to emulate Steve's management. They do need to take serious note of what was good that he brought to Apple, and try to distil it, and ensure it remains in the company DNA, and then find managers that recognise what it is that makes Apple Apple, and who will continue it. The huge dangers are that they become paralysed, or succumb to ego driven infighting. Guiding the company down this path is Tim Cook's job. A successful Apple will not be the same Apple as when Steve ran it. It may be better, but it can't ever be the same, and attempts to keep it so will doom it.

  10. Alan Denman

    Yup, they need a new Totem pole.

    Obviously you can't worship facelessness so something must give.

    When dictatorships work it is because many people prefer mythology.

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