During the question-and-answer section of Apple’s blowout Q1 2012 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook let out a widely known fact from within the company: Apple Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield is now in charge of the team that comes from Anobit, an Israel-based SSD company that Apple acquired earlier this month. Cook also said Apple is integrating Anobit’s talent into Apple’s current workflow. Cook did, however, leave out some crucial details about Anobit’s integration into Apple.
The world’s most famous industrial design lab is found at the ground floor of Apple’s corporate campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. It’s arguably one of the most closely guarded offices on the planet. Even Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson was asked to interview Apple’s leading designer elsewhere most of the time. But one day in 2010, Jonathan Ive took the writer for a tour inside his design bunker. It holds “the future for the next three years”, the Briton told Isaacson. According to the just-released biography, the facility is as cutting-edge as cutting-edge gets.
Nobody gets past the guards without special access cards. The office has heavy locks and tinted windows. It features metallic gray decor and has powerful boom boxes that pump out techno and jazz music for a bunch of designers developing future design ideas. Expensive prototyping equipment can be seen inside and various machines to apply paint and make countless foam models of future products are everywhere.
Jobs would often visit Ive’s design lab to actively participate in the design process and his artistic sensibilities were crucial for Apple’s design prowess, Ive said:
In so many other companies, ideas and great design get lost in the process. The ideas that come from me and my team would have been completely irrelevant, nowhere, if Steve hadn’t been here to push us, work with us, and drive us through all the resistance to turn our ideas into products.
Apple’s design guru also tells how they often obsessed over the packaging for Apple products:
Steve and I spend a lot of time on the packaging. I love the process of unpacking something. You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.
But it wasn’t all peachy. The designer would at times get upset with his late boss for “taking too much credit”, which didn’t sit well with Ive’s introvert personality and especially his careful consideration to always put his team’s efforts first and foremost:
Businessweek’s lengthy profile on Apple’s youngest VP (of iOS software) Scott Forstall is full of little nuggets. Here are the best bits:
- Forstall’s older brother, Bruce, has been a senior software design engineer at Microsoft for 20 years; imagine the Thanksgiving dinner conversations.
- “He was as close to Steve as anybody at the company,” says Andy Miller, who headed Apple’s fledgling iAd group.
- Insiders say he has such a fraught relationship with other members of the executive team—including lead designer Jony Ive and Mac hardware chief Bob Mansfield—that they avoid meetings with him unless Tim Cook is present.
- He’s known to have a taste for the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, in silver, the same car Jobs drove and has a signature on-stage costume: black shoes, jeans, and a black zippered sweater. (He favors Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirts for normal days at the office.)
- “I once referred to Scott as Apple’s chief a–hole,” says former Apple software engineer Mike Lee, who left the company in 2010. “And I meant it as a compliment.”
- “He knows what he wants, and he’s driven to get it,” says AT&T (T) Chief Technology Officer John Donovan. “He can be relentless about getting it.” “Scott’s a pretty amazing guy,” says Vic Gundotra, a senior vice-president at Google. “In terms of running an operating system team, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
- According to the story, iPod godfather Tony Fadell and Jean-Marie Hullot CTO of Apple’s application division until 2005 left Apple after clashing repeatedly with Forstall. Jon Rubinstein, a former iPod chief who left for Palm in 2006, chatted amiably at a Silicon Valley party last month, until Forstall’s name came up. Then he turned away abruptly. “Goodbye!” he said.
- He graduated high school as co-valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. (His high school sweatheart/future wife was the other co-valedictorian.)
- Before the iPhone 4 went to market, Forstall persuaded Jobs to allow dozens of his engineers to carry prototypes of the device to better test its network performance and minimize dropped calls, says a former Apple employee who was a manager at the time. That’s how Gizmodo got ahold of it.
- Forstall has cashed in over $40 million in Apple Stock. Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, says that he would consider downgrading Apple stock if Forstall were to leave.
The idea is that Forstall isn’t quite a Steve Jobs, but he’s the closest all around package that Apple has.
Update: Fadell weighed in pretty much refuting BW’s portrayal of the situation
“I inherited the competitive iPhone OS project from Jon Rubenstein and Steve Sakoman when they left Apple. I quickly shuttered the project after assessing that a modified Mac OS was the right platform to build the iPhone upon. It was clear that to create the best smartphone product possible, we needed to leverage the decades of technology, tools and resources invested in Mac OS while avoiding the unnecessary competition of dueling projects.”