14 October 2013

The New York Times: “And Then Steve Said, ‘Let There Be an iPhone’”

Remarkably, Jobs had to be talked into having Apple build a phone at all. It had been a topic of conversation among his inner circle almost from the moment Apple introduced the iPod in 2001. The conceptual reasoning was obvious: consumers would rather not carry two or three devices for e-mail, phone calls and music if they could carry one. But every time Jobs and his executives examined the idea in detail, it seemed like a suicide mission. Phone chips and bandwidth were too slow for anyone to want to surf the Internet and download music or video over a cellphone connection. E-mail was a fine function to add to a phone, but Research in Motion’s BlackBerry was fast locking up that market.

Fred Vogelstein

So much for the idea of Jobs being the biggest genius of out times for coming up with the idea for the iPhone! He simply was bold enough to risk the future of the company on this longshot and stubborn enough to see the project to the end despite Apple having next to no experience building phones.

Some more amusing bits:

The second iPhone prototype in early 2006 was much closer to what Jobs would ultimately introduce. It incorporated a touch-screen and OS X, but it was made entirely of brushed aluminum. Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, were exceedingly proud of it. But because neither of them was an expert in the physics of radio waves, they didn’t realize they created a beautiful brick. Radio waves don’t travel through metal well. I and Rubén Caballero — Apple’s antenna expert — had to go up to the boardroom and explain to Steve and Ive that you cannot put radio waves through metal, says Phil Kearney, an engineer who left Apple in 2008. And it was not an easy explanation. Most of the designers are artists. The last science class they took was in eighth grade. But they have a lot of power at Apple. So they ask, Why can’t we just make a little seam for the radio waves to escape through? And you have to explain to them why you just can’t.
We put a sign on over the front door of the purple dorm — the iPhone building — that said fight club, because the first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club, Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS software until last October, testified in 2012 during the Apple v. Samsung trial.

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