Apple's Secretive Purple Project
August 6, 2012

Scott Forstall Testifies On Apple’s Secret Purple Project

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Somewhere in the middle of Apple and Samsung´s row are little tidbits of interesting information for the rest of us.

Though Apple notoriously prefers to keep a tight lid on their decision and design process – a fact that´s hard to imagine considering all we think we know about the next iPhone – this case is pulling Apple execs out of the woodwork as attorneys representing both companies cross-examine them, asking questions about the days of the iPad and iPhone´s infancy.

As a part of this questioning, we´ve learned several interesting facts about the early days of Apple´s Post PC devices. For instance, Sir Ive and his team of Apple designers used to hash out ideas on a literal kitchen table, instead of what we all likely assumed would be some glowing, levitating homemade masterpiece.

When head of iOS Scott Forstall took the stand on Friday to testify, he told the court and, in turn, the world, just how difficult it was in the early days to build the iPhone. In addition to top secret hirings, Forstall said he had to give up nights and weekends for a couple of years before the iPhone ever made its way to the hands of eager customers.

As told by Forstall, the iPhone was once referred to as “Purple Project.” Steve Jobs had asked Forstall to assemble a team responsible for building the all-touch interface and software. Ever concerned with privacy, Jobs told Forstall he couldn´t hire anyone from the outside. Furthermore, any Apple employee Forstall brought onto the Purple Project team wasn´t allowed to know what they were working on.

“This was a real challenge,” said Forstall.

His goal at the onset of Purple Project was to hire “superstars” from every department at Apple for his new, super-secret team.

He would tell any potential employee, “We´re starting another project. It´s so secret I cannot tell you what the project is.”

Since he wasn´t allowed to mention the project, Forstall wasn´t able to tell these employees they´d likely be working on the largest, most revolutionary Apple product to date. He did, however, tell them this project would ensure they´d always have a great career at Apple, even if they turned him down.

Forstall also promised these potential new hires plenty of long hours if they decided to join the team.

“You are going to have to give up nights and weekends probably for a couple years,” he said.

Once Forstall had his team set, Purple Project moved to a highly secure area of Cupertino´s campuses, which was soon renamed the “Purple Building.”

"It was very much like a dorm. People were there all the time," Forstall said.

In fact, Forstall even told the court that some employees had hung a sign at the entrance which read “Fight Club,” a reference to the popular movie, as the first rule of Purple Project was similar to the first rule of Fight Club: “Don´t talk about Fight Club.”

In some cases, employees at the Purple building had to show their Apple ID badges 5 or 6 times a day to make sure no secrets were being let loose.

“We wanted something that was a great phone,” said Forstall. “We wanted to do it from whole cloth.”

When Samsung began to cross-examine Forstall, they asked him if Apple had copied any ideas from Samsung´s designs.

"I never directed anyone to go and copy anything from Samsung," Forstall said. "We wanted to build something great ... and so there was no reason to look at something they'd done."