Junior Convocation Featuring iPhone’s Scott Forstall

Posted by at 8:48PM

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Today’s Junior Convocation was notable for two reasons. It took place in the new (and beautiful) Old Union, and the keynote speaker was a very engaging Scott Forstall ’91 (Symbolic Systems) and MS ’92 (Computer Science).
Old Union looked great. To be honest, earlier today it looked kinda ominous out, so I was worried about sitting in the Union courtyard. But by the afternoon it was sunny, and that made it a lot of fun listening to VPUE John Bravman, Forstall and the heads of the three Schools (Earth Sciences, Humanities and Sciences, and Engineering).
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Forstall’s talk was wonderful. He talked about his Stanford days and even made a joke about Azia Kim! He described how when he was deciding between Stanford and Cal, a Cal professor with whom he met told Forstall to go to Stanford: “not all Berkeley professors are evil.” He then went on to discuss a motto he likes, Plus est en vous, meaning There is more in you. He used that motto to show how that idea applies to the iPhone, enabling people to do more than they thought they could. This includes the iPhone team, which he said was spurred on to greater work than they thought possible. He even described the squabbling within the group (the iPhone dorm since people even slept there) about the most minute of details.
One of Forstall’s primary points, though, was about two types of people: roughly, those who believe they can become smarter, and those who have a more deterministic view of themselves. He said that those in the former group are better off because they look for challenges. The way he built his iPhone team (all exclusively transfers from other Apple divisions at the beginning) was by attracting primarily those types. Forstall chastised the latter group for seeking only to look smart or appear capable, and said those people were not as willing to expand their minds or abilities.
After the talk, Forstall defended the iPhone to me, when I asked him about the nature of its platform. I asked him– politely– why the iPhone was not exactly an “open platform” despite his charge that the iPhone encourages innovation and finding the more inside each of us (think: that motto he had). Forstall countered by saying that with the wide array of applications for the iPhone, the device really is an open platform. I asked about the rumored gPhone from Google, supposedly a Linux-based hand-held mobile device which will be a fully open platform. He said that the reason for a closed root-level API was not for lack of sharing but simply to protect both the user and the network (AT&T) from possible viruses. Interesting.
Tomorrow classes start. That means for some students, “Woo Hoo.” And for others, “Oh crap.” Depends on which group of people you’re in.

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One Response to “Junior Convocation Featuring iPhone’s Scott Forstall”

  1. ianhsu says:

    I agree, nice post. Great question about the iPhone as an “open” platform.

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