Where in the World Is Scott Forstall? Traveling, Advising Startups, Philanthropy

| Analysis

Scott ForstallScott Forstall

Where in the world is former Apple golden boy Scott Forstall? Since his surprise termination in October of 2012, that's been the question on many Apple watchers' minds. According to The Information, Mr. Forstall has been traveling—Italy and South Africa—advising unspecified startups, and working on various philanthropic efforts.

The Information is behind a pay wall, but BusinessInsider (via MacRumors) relayed some of the details of the report. These include the news that Mr. Forstall's philanthropy has focused on education, poverty, and human rights. Heavyweight Silicon Valley venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins and Andreessen Horowitz have also "stayed in touch" with Mr. Forstall.

Unnamed Apple employees told the magazine that they expect Mr. Forstall will eventually start his own company, rather than go to work for a VC or sign on with another tech company.

So what's the hullabaloo? Those aren't a lot of details, but Scott Forstall is going to be one of the most closely watched silicon valley tycoons once he's ready to make some waves. Mr. Forstall came to Apple with Steve Jobs from NeXT, and he was the key figure behind what became iOS from the get-go of that disruptive software's creation until he was ousted from Apple in 2012, and that makes him a big deal until proven otherwise.

Difficult, I Name Thee Scott

Mr. Forstall had developed a reputation for being very difficult to work with, especially after the death of Steve Jobs, and he became a divisive figure in the company. For CEO Tim Cook, who was working on transitioning Apple to a prosperous and sustainable future after Steve Jobs, this was a problem.

Also problematic was Mr. Forstall's continued interest in skeuomorphism, when other key executives wanted to leave that concept behind and remake both iOS and OS X. The nail in his Apple coffin was refusing to sign a letter apologizing for the botched rollout of Apple Maps, causing Mr. Cook to terminate him.

Despite, or maybe even because, people want to know what he will do next. This has been heightened by the reality that he has kept a very low profile since his ouster. When such an unabashed champion of his own work goes quiet, our natural curiosity is raised.

Don't Forget Steve

Add in the parallels to Steve Jobs—Scott Forstall is brilliant, a visionary, convinced of the correctness of that vision, abrasive, demanding, and insulting to those he feels beneath him, and he was ousted from Apple like Mr. Jobs was in the mid-80s—and the interest in his NeXT goings on becomes even more intent.

Some Apple watchers will no doubt want him to fail for the perverse reason that it will vindicate Tim Cook's decision to remove him. I'm here to tell you that's nonsense. Scott Forstall had to go for the long-term health of Apple, but I personally want to see him go on to do something great, to create some new, disruptive product or technology so that I can enjoy it.

Scott Forstall can succeed post-Apple, and terminating him will still have been the right move for Tim Cook to make.

Outside the echo chamber, the business and technology world will be keen to see what direction he takes, and there will be many, many people with vast sums of money willing to back him. That's why a small article with little information from a magazine behind a pay wall is generating so much attention.

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