Scott Forstall testimony: Apple hiring, iPhone Fight Club team, Samsung design and 7-inch iPad

August 3, 2012

The U.S. Apple vs Samsung trial continued its proceedings today with Judge Lucy Koh scolding the two parties for their “theatrics” and “sideshows” followed by Phil Shiller’s testimony. Once Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing answered all questions, the next witness to take the stand was called.

And we were looking to another important Apple executive for the iOS business, Scott Forstall, the company’s Senior Vice President of iOS Software. Just like Shiller before him, Forstall revealed quite a few interesting details on the inner workings at Apple, including plenty of patent infringement allegations, that happen to go both ways.

Apple examination

And just like in Shiller’s case, we have plenty of quotes from Forstall’s testimony, via The Verge.

NeXT job at Apple

Forstall took the stand and kicked off his testimony with various background information regarding his education and his getting hired at NeXT, which was then acquired by Apple. Apparently, Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs wanted explicitly to hire Forstall, as Jobs burst in the room during Forstall’s interview telling him that he would get an offer, which he’d better accept – we’re definitely not seeing the relevance of this introduction, but it’s yet another interesting detail from Jobs way of doing things.

iPhone Fight Club Team

Then Forstall explained how in 2003 he was working on the iPad, and how that work transformed into developing the iPhone a year later. He ended up leading the iPhone OS software team under strict instructions to hire anyone as long as the persons chosen for the job were already working at Apple. The team would then work in a special building, labeled “Fight Club,” on a project nobody outside the team had any details about.

Here are some relevant quotes from his testimony:

  • […] could we make a beautiful tablet without a keyboard, without a hinge, where you have to fold it like a laptop.
  • Could we use the technology we were doing with touch that we’d been prototyping for this tablet, and could we use that for a phone… So we took that tablet and took a small scrolling list… We built a small corner of it as a list of contacts…. You could tap on the contact, it would slide over and show you the information… It was just amazing. We realized that a touchscreen of the size that would fit in your pocket would be perfect for these phones.
  • So this was a real challenge. Steve gave me a difficult constraint, and that constaint was — he didn’t want, for secrecy reasons, for anyone outside of Apple to work on the user interface… So I had to find people within Apple to work on that. But he told me I could move anyone within the company to that team.
  • [How Forstall hired people for the iPhone project:] we’re starting a new project. It’s so secret I can’t even tell you what that project is. I can’t tell you who you will work for… What I can tell you is that if you accept this project you… will work nights, you will work weekends, probably for a number of years.
  • We wanted to build a phone for ourselves. We wanted to build a phone that we loved that was really a computer in your pocket in some ways.
  • We actually moved out the release of other projects because of the people we took off the projets and put onto this [the iPhone].
  • [The iPhone building was] very much like a dorm, people were there all the time… It smelled something like pizza, and in fact on the front door of the Purple Dorm we put a sign up that said ‘Fight Club’… because the first rule of that project was to not talk about it outside those doors.
  • [Referring to the ‘163 tap-to-zoom patent] I remember as we built the iPhone I spent a lot of time using the early prototypes myself. I would use them to send all my emails, to browse the web. Basically anything I could do on the prototype I would do on the prototype instead of the computer.
  • [About the same feature:] “‘Understanding that structure, and the structure the user cares about is a challenge.” The intelligence behind centering the content is also difficult, he says. “Center it where it makes sense, but don’t go beyond the edge of the document because there’s no reason to do that.”

Samsung cross-examination

Attorney Kevin Johnson questioned Forstall when it was time for the Samsung cross-examination. Samsung tried to prove that Apple does examine Samsung handsets – just like Samsung does with the competition’s – and that the Galaxy Tab may have been an inspiration source for a future iPad mini product.

Does Apple copy Samsung design?

Johnson reminded Forstall that during depositions, the VP acknowledged that the iPhone processor speed was a concern for the executive, who was wondering how the CPU would fare against devices from the competition, including Samsung handsets.

Samsung SGH-E910

Moreover, an email from Tony Fadell, another important Apple figure that worked on the iPod and iPhone before leaving Apple to start its own thermostat-building venture, was brought to Forstall’s attention, although the iOS guru did not remember the contents of the email. Fadell detailed the examination of a Samsung handset, the SGH-E910 in an email sent to Jony Ive, Jon Rubinstein, Jobs and Fostall. Jobs apparently forwarded the email back to Ive saying that:

This may be our answer — we could put the number pad around our clickwheel.

Then, when a new Samsung smartphone was released, the same Fadell emailed the team about it, and Johnson argued that thus it’s Apple execs that were copying Samsung.

Other Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S, were tore down by Apple and inspected. During inspection, features not found on the iPhone were explored, including TouchWiz and Swype. Other competing phones were also analyzed by Apple in 2008, with Forstall explaining that Apple was simply comparing dropped call performance – this was probably at a time that Apple had issues in the U.S. when it comes to making calls in certain metropolitan areas.

The 7-inch Galaxy Tab-inspired iPad mini

The most interesting fact that Samsung helped uncover is the 7-inch iPad Mini that will probably be revealed later this year.

We all remember Jobs’s adverse reaction to the original 7-inch Galaxy Tab during an Apple’s quarterly earnings report, which hinted that Apple will not be making a 7-inch iPad anytime soon. But it looks like not everyone at Apple was against 7-inch tablets. In fact, Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services was quite interested in making a 7-inch iPad, and apparently his arguments managed to convince Jobs back in 2011 the project is worth investing in. Here are some relevant quotes from Cue that were mentioned during Forstall’s testimony:

Having used a Samsung Galaxy [Tab], i tend to agree with many of the comments below [he forwarded a Galaxy Tab article in the email]… I believe there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one. I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time.

Later, Johnson asked Forstall whether Apple invented the touchscreen but Forstall responded that he’s not fully aware of Apple’s patent portfolio. When asked whether the trial will reveal that Apple instructed employees to copy Samsung’s design, here’s what he answered:

  • I never directed anyone to copy anything from Samsung.
  • [Why not?] We wanted to build something great, and we thought we could build something better than anyone had built. There was no reason to look to them on this.

We’ll be back with more details on the U.S. Apple vs Samsung trial next week as this fight continues.

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