Used to be, at the end of every release, everyone got a month to work on what they wanted. Which gave us Apple TV.

Interesting interview with Scott Forstall, former software and Senior VP at Apple, significant contributor on both the Mac and iOS sides.

From Forstall’s Wikipedia page:

In 2005, when Jobs began planning the iPhone, he had a choice to either “shrink the Mac, which would be an epic feat of engineering, or enlarge the iPod”. Jobs favored the former approach but pitted the Macintosh and the iPod team, led by Forstall and Tony Fadell respectively, against each other in an internal competition. Forstall won that fierce competition to create iOS.

The decision enabled the success of the iPhone as a platform for third-party developers: using a well-known desktop operating system as its basis allowed the many third-party Mac developers to write software for the iPhone with minimal retraining. Forstall was also responsible for creating a software developer’s kit for programmers to build iPhone apps, as well as an App Store within iTunes.

The video embedded below is part of Stanford University’s Philosophy Talk series. The relevant part of the conversation, highlighted on the headline linked Reddit post, starts at about 31 minutes in.

In a nutshell, Forstall talks about giving everyone who reported to him (a fairly large group) a month off to work on whatever they wanted. Give a listen.

It used to be a common perq at big tech companies (Google and Apple are but two examples) that you got time to work on stuff that interested you. Sometimes that benefit came in the form of a long sabbatical, allowing you to travel around the world, or take classes in some unrelated field, all via paid leave.

Another take on this policy allowed you to carve out a percentage of your time each month to fiddle around with technology you thought might lead to something that might benefit the company in the long run.

Does this sort of thing exist any more? Anyone have that freedom at their job? Is there a value to the company, a value that’s now been lost because this sort of thing is hard to translate into dollars and cents?

And is it possible this approach, one that gives team members the ability to ease themselves from the threat of burn-out, has benefits in terms of more stable OS releases, less employee turnover?