Saturday, October 05, 2013

A terrific article on the development of the iPhone

The New York Times magazine published an article by Fred Vogelstein on the development and announcement of the iPhone: And Then Steve Said, "Let There Be an iPhone."

The article describes an enormous challenge with 80-hour weeks and frayed tempers, the risks they took, the secrecy around the project and a fascinating behind the scenes look at the preparation for the risky on-stage demo Steve Jobs did at the product introduction (starting at 21m 3s -- watch at least through 24m 30s):

Here are a few quotes from the New York Times article to pique your interest:

It’s hard to overstate the gamble Jobs took when he decided to unveil the iPhone back in January 2007. Not only was he introducing a new kind of phone — something Apple had never made before — he was doing so with a prototype that barely worked.

Very rarely did I see him become completely unglued — it happened, but mostly he just looked at you and very directly said in a very loud and stern voice, ‘You are [expletive] up my company,’ or, ‘If we fail, it will be because of you.’

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.

Above all, Jobs didn’t want to partner with any of the wireless carriers.

Apple designed and built not one but three different early versions of the iPhone in 2005 and 2006.

No one had ever put a multitouch screen in a mainstream consumer product before

Jon Rubinstein, Apple’s top hardware executive at the time, says there were even long discussions about how big the phone would be.

The iPhone project was so complex that it occasionally threatened to derail the entire corporation. Many top engineers in the company were being sucked into the project, forcing slowdowns in the timetables of other work.

Big companies like Marvell, which made the Wi-Fi radio chip, and CSR, which provided the Bluetooth radio chip, hadn’t been told they were going to be in a new phone. They thought they were going to be in a new iPod. “We actually had fake schematics and fake industrial designs,” the engineer says.

Even people within the project itself couldn’t talk to one another.

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