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Scott Forstall, the Sorcerer's Apprentice at Apple

Scott Forstall is a lot like his mentor Steve Jobs: brilliant, presents well, a tenacious infighter—arguably just the taskmaster Apple needs to stay on top

The deteriorating health of Steve Jobs loomed over Apple’s Oct. 4 press event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Apple wanted the day to be all about its new iPhone 4S, but the absence of the company’s charismatic co-founder was palpable. On the far right of the jam-packed theater’s front row was an empty chair, its back covered by a black cloth with “reserved” written in bright, white letters—possibly a subtle tribute to the ailing icon. Tim Cook, the company’s new chief executive officer, took the stage first to kick off the 90-minute show, but he spoke slowly and deliberately, and perhaps, in hindsight, with a touch of melancholy. He didn’t mention Jobs once. Neither did Phil Schiller, Apple’s longtime marketing chief, who pulled the curtain off the new iPhone, or Eddy Cue, head of Internet software and services, who rolled out a new Web storage system, iCloud. The executives knew the situation was grim. Jobs passed away at 3 p.m. the following day, kicking off a wave of reflection and adulation that continues even now.

The executive who summoned the most energy at the press conference was a boyish-looking senior vice-president named Scott Forstall, who reviewed the features of the new iPhone operating system. Toward the end of the event he returned to the stage to introduce the device’s surreal digital assistant, Siri. “Who are you?” he asked his iPhone. “I am a humble personal assistant,” the device replied, bringing the biggest laugh of the otherwise low-key morning. Forstall then showed off his Jobsian knack for ungrammatical hyperbole. “That is absolutely blow-away,” he said.