Apple execs talk about the iPhone's early days, the secrecy of 'Project Purple'

The back and forth of Apple and Samsung's spat can be tiring, it's true, but the legal debacle has its moments. Cupertino's Scott Forstall, for instance, took the stand on Friday to give some insights on the beginnings of what Apple called "Project Purple," and the secrecy that surrounded the first iPhone's development. "We're starting another project," Forstall would tell potential recruits to the project, "It's so secret I cannot tell you what the project is. You are going to have to give up nights and weekends for a couple years." These were the words that conscripted much of the team that would eventually build Apple's first phone. Forstall said that the engineers he recruited weren't told anything about the project or even who they would report to -- eventually, Apple locked down one of its Cupertino buildings, affectionately calling it the "purple dorm" for its vague pizza-like aroma.

When Apple's attorney questioned the senior vice president of iOS software about how the Project Purple team drove innovation, Forstall went on to describe the challenge of building a touch-centric OS. "Everything we dealt with before was based on mouse and keyboard, and here we were changing the entire user interface to be based around touch. We had to rethink everything about what big controls would be knowing where you are in the document, knowing when you reach the list... Every single part of every device had to be rethought for doing touch." Samsung's legal team was more concerned with how Project Purple was inspired by competitor devices; Forstall responded by saying that Apple simply tested Purple's call performance against other devices, noting that "it's fine to benchmark for performance reasons, it's not OK to copy and rip something off."

The comments are interesting, but they probably won't weight too heavily on the jury's final decision. Still, the stories are entertaining, and worth a read for those interested in the iPhone's origins. Even so, we'll be glad when the patent wars are finally over.

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