Craig Federighi

Craig Federighi

Craig Federighi, sometimes called "Hair Force One," is Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering. He's in charge of the development of all of Apple's major operating systems, overseeing macOS, iOS and iPadOS. He also worked with Steve Jobs at NeXT. He's best known for his enthusiastic, funny, and self-effacing presentations at WWDC and other Apple events.

● Nicknamed "Hair Force One" and, by Tim Cook, "Superman."
● Oversees both macOS and iOS
● Worked at NeXT under Steve Jobs
● Reportedly instrumental in the radical iOS 7 redesign
● Replaced Scott Forstall on iOS development

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Craig Federighi is officially the senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple, but he's known as much for being a showman with popular presentations. His public speaking is chiefly at WWDC, where each year he introduces new versions of both macOS and iOS. At certain events, such as the 2013 WWDC keynote, he has had more stage time than anyone else on the executive team, including Tim Cook.

Away from the public events, he's reportedly a strong communicator in private. In 2013, the Wall Street Journal said that Apple employees consider him a responsive executive, someone who replies and reacts to internal emails. The profile also called him an impressive "rising star," reporting that Federighi tries to build consensus within teams across the company.

This perception appears to include running the software teams not as opponents of or indifferent to hardware teams but as collaborators working towards the same goals.

Tim Cook hands over to Craig Federighi on stage Tim Cook hands over to Craig Federighi on stage

Alongside his software background, including earning a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, he has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Craig Federighi - A Good Listener

If his educational background helps him look at both software and hardware, other sources say that he's able to look at all sides of an issue.

For example, immediately before his first role in the company, Craig Federighi worked for Steve Jobs at NeXT, which he joined in 1994. Will Shipley, a co-founder of The Omni Group, was working with NeXT at the time and later wrote that he had not expected to like Federighi.

"In comes Craig –– the new guy –– and he’s like seven feet tall and gameshow-host handsome and he’s smiling like a used car salesman," wrote Shipley in a 2011 blog post. "I will admit it; I was prepared not to like him."

"You naturally expect a tall, handsome dude to be, well, kind of a jerk," he continues. "Like, his ideas are more important than yours. But what struck me so hard in that first meeting, so much so that it’s still in my head 17 years later, is that he was there to listen. And not just to passively listen – he wanted to make sure he understood what we were saying, yes, but also to get to the heart of it."

Shipley says that Federighi's work at NeXT was chiefly on what was called Enterprise Objects Framework (EOF). It was software technology intended to help large companies by letting their regular desktop computers connect to enterprise databases.

First Time at Apple

NeXT's software may have already been in flux when Apple bought the company in 1996, but the acquisition certainly reworked it. At that point, EOF became part of what Apple called WebObjects, which is still included in Apple's Xcode development tool used today.

Craig Federighi presenting Craig Federighi presenting

Craig Federighi left Apple in1999 to join corporate software company Ariba, which was then pioneering e-commerce.

By the time he left Ariba in 2009, Federighi was the company's Chief Technology Officer. At that point, he rejoined Apple to work on macOS. His first WWDC appearance was at that year's event to give what he called a sneak peek of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Compared to the Federighi we see today, that short performance and the following year's one were tentative, even nervous.

In 2011, he succeeded the previous vice president of Mac Software Engineering, Bertrand Serlet. In late 2012, he took over from the departed Scott Forstall to run iOS software too.

With greatly increased responsibilities within Apple, Federighi's stage time at events grew rapidly. He became visibly more confident, funny, and enthusiastic, whether he was talking about "beautiful buttery scrolling" or even rick-rolling WWDC attendees. 

However, not every presentation went perfectly. In September 2017, Federighi showed off Apple's new Face ID, and the system appeared to fail. The phone had already been used to test out Face ID and having, correctly, not unlocked for the testers, it prompted him for his passcode.

It was embarrassing even if it wasn't really a failure, but notably Federighi moved straight on to a backup phone with no fuss or panic. Even Steve Jobs was known to complain more when there were presentation problems outside of his control.

Craig Federighi in Public

In public, Craig Federighi is known for being enthused yet calm. He's unquestionably knowledgeable but also the Apple executive most willing to laugh at himself and the company.

We're unlikely to ever know very much about what he's like within Apple, or how he's perceived there. However, his role has expanded gigantically. While myriad people must work on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, they are all now reporting to him.

Apple is perceived to have had very few recognizable faces, over the years. There are few people with high profiles like Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, or Tim Cook. Yet it has many more compared to most large corporations, and they include Craig Federighi.

Interviews and Quotes

Though not much else is known about the Apple VP, we can piece together quotes from product launches and interviews to get a better sense of his vision for the company and its products and features. He is speaking for the company in these situations, making it more about Craig Federighi as an Apple representative than as an individual, but his outsized personality still comes through in every public appearance.

Privacy

In a 2020 interview, Craig Federighi made it clear that Apple's dedication to privacy isn't for show but because Apple believes that privacy is a fundamental human right.

"We think we're showing the way to the industry, to the customer, that they can demand more – they should expect more – about the protection of their privacy, and that we can help move the industry into building things that better protect privacy," Federighi said.

"When Apple was founded, the proposition was, 'This is the personal computer. This is your own data. That set of floppy disks that you have in the shoebox next to your Apple II – that's yours. It's not on the mainframe. It's not on the timesharing system – it's your data.

"And people at Apple, as the world has evolved, have continued to think of this as personal computing. And that the data that you create, the things you do with your computer-those are yours and should be under your control. You should be aware of what's happening with your data."

Apple's software lead talks privacy Apple's software lead talks privacy

Craig Federighi talked Apple's privacy labels in a separate interview in December 2020.

"[Labels] are the start of something really ambitious," he said. "The work we're doing here we view in the context of providing leadership to the industry, raising users' expectations of what they should expect and demand in privacy.

"We absolutely expect that others in the industry will respond to the heightened expectations and demands of customers and improve privacy – and we think that's great. This is one category where if they want to copy some of our best ideas toward improving user privacy – we embrace that."

In a November 2020 interview, the executive defended Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature debuting in iOS 14.5. He claims the move is consistent with Apple's core values, and that he believes it ultimately won't damage advertisers as much as has been claimed.

"We introduced intelligent tracking prevention, several years ago, and at the time, parts of the ad industry were saying that the sky was going to be falling in and that their business was going to be destroyed by the fact that they couldn't track everyone from website to website to website.

"Well, in fact, if you look at what happened to the industry, that didn't happen at al. And yet we also protected user privacy."

Apple Silicon Transition

Craig Federighi had some thoughts about iOS 14 in a June 2020 interview following its announcement.

"Those of us who do know about what's coming [are] very excited," said Federighi. "But you can imagine Apple would not go down a path like this without feeling like that it was a tremendous step for the Mac in the future. We're excited to tell the full story ... but right now hopefully developers know enough to both be excited and compelled to get on board and do their part.

"Even that [Developer Transition Kit] hardware, which is running on an existing iPad chip that we don't intend to put in a Mac in the future, it's just there for the transition, the Mac runs awfully nice on that system.

"It's not a basis on which to judge future Macs, of course, but it gives you a sense of what our silicon team can do when they're not even trying. And they're going to be trying."

Apple's Software VP weighing in on the iPad's cursor input in 2020 Apple's Software VP weighing in on the iPad's cursor input in 2020

On people saying Apple Silicon is only about customer lock-in, the executive didn't hold back. "I think those guys are being total tools, honestly," said Federighi. "I mean, I don't know how they can even begin to come up with that theory. I get people coming up asking if we can still launch Terminal? Yes, you can. These Macs are Macs. We're not changing any of this."

On running Windows on ARM Macs, he said, "We're not direct-booting an alternate operating system. The fact that we mentioned virtualization in the keynote was partly a nod to people's interest in the topic."

When asked in a separate interview about virtualized Windows support in Apple Silicon, he said, "that is really up to Microsoft." He added, "We have the core technologies for them to do that, to run their ARM version of Windows, which in turn of course supports x86 user mode applications. But that's a decision Microsoft has to make, to bring to license that technology for users to run on these Macs. But the Macs are certainly very capable of it."

2020 was a big year for Federighi, as Apple launched the transition to ARM-based Macs 2020 was a big year for Federighi, as Apple launched the transition to ARM-based Macs

In November 2020, Federighi said that processor specifications "typically bandied about in the industry" have stopped being a predictor of real-world performance.

"Architecturally, how many streams of 4k or 8k video can you process simultaneously while performing certain effects? That is the question video professionals want an answer to. No spec on the chip is going to answer that question for them.

On people nitpicking at Apple's choice of the first Macs to run the M1 chip, he said, "It seems like some of these people were people who don't buy that part of our product line right now are eager for us to develop silicon to address the part of the product line that they're most passionate about. You know that their day will come. But for now, the systems we're building are, in every way I can consider, superior to the ones they've replaced."

iPadOS

In an interview following WWDC 2019, Craig Federighi waxed on Apple's rebranding of iOS on the iPad to iPadOS.

"It's become a truly distinct experience," he said. "It's not an iPhone experience. It's not a Mac experience. The name is a recognition of that.

"We've expanded the domain where people can say the iPad is the best solution."

Federighi added that while he uses both iPad and Mac for his work, as he manages teams that produce software for both platforms, he's spending more time on a personal level with an iPad.

Apple Product Development

In a 2013 interview, Craig Federighi said, "I think it's a unique statement about Apple's values in product development that it is taken as a given among everyone on the team that we will go to the most absurd lengths seemingly to get something just right, to solve, to do the level of architecture work that normally would constitute the most critical element of a product. But we'll focus that amount of energy and more to say, 'That blur has to be just right. That detail has to be just right.'

"OK, I'm a technology freak. But I think probably if someone mapped my brain, you would find that there were moments when I lit up the love pattern in my neurons in association with our products. I mean, literally, there is love, and I think that is true of many of our customers. I think when we build something we love and that others love, then we have done our job."

 

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