Chris Lattner Refutes Claim He Left Apple Over ‘Openness’

| Analysis

Chris Lattner, Apple’s outgoing head of developer tools, has refuted claims published by BusinessInsider that he left the company because of Apple’s focus on secrecy and closed systems. Mr. Lattner left Apple, where he was credited with heading development of Swift, for Tesla, where he will be working on self-driving cars.

Chris Lattner

Chris Lattner, former Apple Executive

9to5Mac reported on Wednesday that Matt Casebolt also left Apple for Tesla, where he will be Sr. Director Engineering, Closures & Mechanisms.

Openness

Citing an unnamed friend of Mr. Lattner’s on Friday, BusinessInsider reported, “one big reason [Chris Lattner left Apple] was that Apple’s culture of secrecy was wearing on him, particularly because it was his job (and his life’s work) to create open-source developer tools.”

The site quoted the friend as saying:

He always felt constrained at Apple in terms of what he could discuss publicly — resorting to off-the-record chats, surprise presentations, and the like. Similarly, I know he was constrained in recruiting and other areas. Eventually I know that can really wear people down.

Nuh-Uh

Mr. Lattner took to Twitter to refute the claim, saying:

Praise for Ted Kremenek

On a related note, Daring Fireball noted a January 11th email on a listserve from Mr. Lattner. In that email, Mr. Lattner downplayed his own importance and praised Ted Kremenek, who will replace him at Apple.

One thing that I don’t think is fully appreciated by the community: Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team. This is the time for me to graciously hand things over to folks who are far more qualified than me. Swift has an incredible future ahead of it, and I’m really thrilled to be small part of the force that helps guide its direction going forward.

That’s the kind of self-effacing commentary one might expect from a confident, talented person like Mr. Lattner. Personally, I suspect Apple will miss him, but it’s likely the Swift team remains strong. At the same time, it’s also likely that the unnamed “friend” cited by BusinessInsider was projecting.

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