TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Apple's New Calling: The iPhone

Apple's New Calling: The iPhone

Monty Solomon (
Sat, 13 Jan 2007 14:29:47 -0500

By Lev Grossman

If you've ever wondered how it works, this is how it works: I don't
call Steve, Steve calls me. Or more accurately, someone in Steve
Jobs's office calls someone in my office -- someone at a much higher
pay grade -- to say that he has something cool. I then fly to the
metastasized strip mall called Cupertino, Calif. where Apple lives,
sign some legal confidentiality stuff and am escorted to a conference
room which contains Jobs, some associates, and some lumps concealed
under some black towels. I stare at what was under the towels.
Everybody else stares at me.

This is how Apple, and nobody else, introduces new products to the
press. It can be awkward, because Jobs is high strung and he expects
you to be impressed. I was, fortunately, and with good reason.
Apple's new iPhone could do to the cell phone market what the iPod did
to the portable music player market: crush it pitilessly beneath the
weight of its own superiority. This is unfortunate for anybody else
who makes cell phones, but it's good news for those of us who use

It's also good news for Jobs. Apple has had some explaining to do
lately about back-dated stock options it issued to Jobs and some
other senior Apple executives. An internal investigation has cleared
Jobs, but a federal investigation and a shareholder lawsuit are still
going forward. Sure, backdating options is common in Silicon Valley,
but the essence of Apple's identity is that it's an uncorporate
corporation: a glossy white iPod-colored company, the kind that
doesn't get mixed up in this kind of thing. When Jobs calls the
iPhone "the most important product Apple has ever announced, with the
possible exception of the Apple II and the Macintosh," he means,
technologically. But now is not a terrible time to be hitting a home

The iPhone developed the way a lot of cool things do: with a false
start. A few years ago Jobs noticed how many development dollars were
being spent -- particularly in the greater Seattle metropolitan area-on
what are called tablet PCs: flat, portable computers that work with a
touchscreen instead of a mouse-and-keyboard. Jobs, being Jobs,
figured he could do better, so he had Apple engineers noodle around
with a tablet PC. When they showed him the touchscreen they came up
with, he got excited. So excited he forgot all about tablet computers.

Jobs had just led Apple on a triumphant rampage through a new market
sector, portable music players, and he was looking around for more
technology to conquer. Cell phones are perfect because even grandma
has one: consumers bought nearly a billion of them last year. Break
off just 1% of that and you can buy yourself a lot of black
turtlenecks. Cell phones do all kinds of stuff-calling, text
messaging, web browsing, contact management, music playback, photos
and video-but they do it very badly, by forcing you to press lots of
tiny buttons, navigate diverse heterogeneous interfaces and squint at
a tiny screen. "Everybody hates their phone," Jobs says, "and that's
not a good thing. And there's an opportunity there." To Jobs's
perfectionist eyes, phones are broken. Jobs likes things that are
broken. It means he can make something that isn't and sell it to you
for a premium price.,8599,1575410-1,00.html

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Monty Solomon: "Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs"
Go to Previous message: Susan: "Cell to Cell Tap"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page