Scott Forstall, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Apple

“The deteriorating health of Steve Jobs loomed over Apple’s Oct. 4 press event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif,” Adam Satariano, Peter Burrows and Brad Stone report for Businessweek.

“Apple wanted the day to be all about its new iPhone 4S, but the absence of the company’s charismatic co-founder was palpable,” Satariano, Burrows and Stone report. “On the far right of the jam-packed theater’s front row was an empty chair, its back covered by a black cloth with ‘reserved’ written in bright, white letters—possibly a subtle tribute to the ailing icon.”

“Tim Cook, the company’s new chief executive officer, took the stage first to kick off the 90-minute show, but he spoke slowly and deliberately, and perhaps, in hindsight, with a touch of melancholy. He didn’t mention Jobs once. Neither did Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime marketing chief, who pulled the curtain off the new iPhone, or Eddy Cue, head of Internet software and services, who rolled out a new Web storage system, iCloud,” Satariano, Burrows and Stone report. “The executives knew the situation was grim. Jobs passed away at 3 p.m. the following day, kicking off a wave of reflection and adulation that continues even now.”

Satariano, Burrows and Stone report, “The executive who summoned the most energy at the press conference was a boyish-looking senior vice-president named Scott Forstall, who reviewed the features of the new iPhone operating system. Toward the end of the event he returned to the stage to introduce the device’s surreal digital assistant, Siri. ‘Who are you?’ he asked his iPhone. ‘I am a humble personal assistant,’ the device replied, bringing the biggest laugh of the otherwise low-key morning. Forstall then showed off his Jobsian knack for ungrammatical hyperbole. ‘That is absolutely blow-away,’ he said.”

Tons more in the full article here.

39 Comments

  1. If they’re smart Apple will stop this tag team approach and hand most of the product presentation over to Scott. Steve was a master at presentation and it seems that Scott could also become that.

    1. In the end who cares? I’m unconvinced Jobs delivery was more than frosting on an already frosted cake.

      If Steve had the job of presenting BlackBerries, and Ballmer presented iPads and iPhones (shudder to think), I doubt I’d be typing this on a BB.

      I’m not saying its nothing, but if you do the upfront job of putting together clearly ahead of its time high quality products, the marketing and sales aspect could almost be done by bozos.

      The magic of Steve’s Demos were the gravitas he brought to the stage. It was in hearing from the guy who sheparded these things into existence that compelled me rather than strictly speaking his delivery and oratory skills. Is oratory a word?

      1. Well that doesn’t work because steve was the inspiration behind each product. So Steve would never create a crappy BB in his entire life. And Ballmer would never dream of iPad, iPhone. Steve was not great because his salesman abilities but simply his vision.

  2. Correction. Steve Jobs was mentioned, right at the end. “and you all for coming and thanks to our SPECIAL GUEST for being here.”
    “being here” was in reference to being alive. Not to his physical location.

  3. Having watched many keynotes over the past six years (since Steve’s first absence), I would say that Scott has the greatest stage appeal of them all. He comes across as comfortable, confident, likeable, and can properly deliver a subtle pun or a joke without coming off as trying to hard.

    Following him, I would probably put Phil Schiller. Tim Cook hasn’t done many keynotes before (as a COO, it simply wasn’t expected of him to do), so he may need some time to get in the groove. Eddy Cue is fine, but doesn’t stand out.

    Among them all, Scott certainly sounds most believable and overall the best choice for these events.

    1. Phil is good for a little comic relief, it is then that I THINK his real personality shines through. When he is up there longer he seems to come across as the ‘marketing guy’ (read: salesman) the adjectives seem forced and less believable.

      To me Scott seems genuine when he uses them, his over the top enthusiasm seems real and brings an endearing quality. You feel the passion, it’s in his speech, his eyes and the smile.

      Regarding the article, I have no doubt they can all be tyrants to work for, you do not rise to senior VP in any major business without being able to crack the whip and step on toes. Political battles are inevitable. It should be the role of the senior most management to reign them in and foster the appropriate level of cooperation to complete the job.

      I think at that level, at a certain point the drive comes from one of two things: 1. Challenge, wanting to do great things. Or 2. Greed, Blind ambition. Clearly they are all very well compensated and have not to want of material things. I sense that Steve would have weeded them all out long ago if they were in it for # 2. Apple provides them the perfect place to be great. I think they will all be around for a good time to come.

  4. I like the entire team up there doing the demos themselves. Unlike most other tech companies head honchos who can’t run their own demo ( which means all they care about is seeing the spreadsheet on how much money they have been LOSING ) because they don’t take the time to learn what they are creating. Unlike Apple, who actually knows what the hell they are talking about.

    Anyway, as a MC, Scott would be awesome to preside the entire presentations. While each of the team continue to do their portion.

  5. Forstall sounds like Jobs before he was fired from Apple and spent 10 years wandering in the wilderness before returning as a more mellow version of himself.

    Maybe with a few good whacks in the side of the head and kicks in the ass, Forstall might mature into another Steve. Sounds like he has the potential and Apple needs a good showman.

  6. This is my personal and humble opinion, but Phil Schiller is the one should be doing the presentations, as a marketing VP, he know all the products and how they are related, also, he is funny and charismatic.

      1. Phil is great. He doesn’t have that phony presenter thing going on like most. Yes Phil has has own endearing brand of charm. Sort of in a Wozniak way.

        On another note if you think about it even Steve Jobs passing seemed well timed, not before, nor during but just after an Apple Event. It seems like something that would only happen in fiction and you wouldn’t believe it. Even in death Steve had class.

    1. He’s obviously professional and good at what he does. But he doesn’t have it, as far as stage presence goes, at least not by apple standards.

      See, other companies would put him up there because “it’s the obvious choice” the choice that makes sense on paper and has no finese.

    2. No way. Phil seems very stiff to me. His coffee joke when talking about camera speeds made me laugh when I read it in text but when I watched the keynote it was groan-worthy. He doesn’t have the natural charisma that Forstall does, no question.

  7. Mr. Forstall often seems at ease on stage, and many have picked up on that. He also wears jeans and a black shirt (at least on the recent few presentations). However, spotlighting him so soon after a powerful presence vacuum with the new CEO still sporting that new title smell, come across awfully like a political power play. Brad Stone is renowned; and many of us who like Mr. Forstall’s easy manners on the stage would like to give the team and this report a benefit of doubt. But I think, Apple would do well to not break into groups of internal politics suddenly hungry to tear down the house that Jobs built.

    Finally, one of the intriguing takes came from DED (yes, Mr. Dilger) on his own site. His tribute on Mr. Jobs wasn’t the most profound nor sentimental. But he made me understand Mr. Cook in a light; though different in mannerism and that vision thingy, Mr. Cook can be Steve’s younger brother and Steve hand picked him as his successor. I would prefer Apple continued with its successful way, as if nothing is changed and business as usual. That would be the best tribute and compliment on the legacy of Steve (employee numero ‘0’).

  8. I agree. You’ve got a couple people that can energize somewhat like Steve: Scott Forstall for one, but also Jony Ive (conspicuously absent at the keynote). Those two are perhaps the most dynamic VPs at Apple today, in my opinion. They can make you believe in magic…

    1. Johnny Ive performs well in scripted video recordings, for a camera. However, apparently, he is an intensely private man and does NOT like public appearances (before a live audience). Kind of like Bob Mansfield; they both come across as passionate about their work in those Apple videos, but we never see them in person.

  9. As always. in every presentation Scott is energized with passion and knowledge; he is skllled in every keynote to date. He does embrace a Jobs-like showmanship.

    My only critic for Scott, is to slow it down a little. Just a suggestion – however in that last keynote I think he was extremely clear.

    Perhaps, if he were hosting the entire keynote, not a limited time frame to iOS only; then he could present smoother and calmer with all his needed enthusiasm with much more clarity.

  10. Apple is about making things simple to use.
    So, with regards to demos – to have a person who is less tech-savy – bests illustrates that statement, “it just works”.

    When things are technical and require a guest onstage to demo complicated feature, function or technology then sure have the engineer or whomever come up.

    There is no better man at Apple right now then Scott to host these keynotes. He has engulfed the ideaology of Apple with enthusiasm.

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