How A 2005 Steve Jobs Ultimatum Turned Into The iPhone We Know

How a 2005 Steve Jobs Ultimatum Turned Into the iPhone We Know

Way back in 2005, Apple engineer Greg Christie was toying around with ideas for a touchscreen telephone. Then, Jobs gave him an ultimatum: show serious progress in two weeks, or someone else gets the project.

There's nothing like a threat to sharpen one's focus — and Jobs' demand for " bigger ideas and bigger concepts" really did. Ahead of another legal spat between Samsung and Apple, Christie has explained how the iPhone project first started to the Wall Street Journal, and it makes for interesting reading.

The article explains how a "shockingly small" team worked solidly for those two weeks to prove themselves. They developed software that they ran on a plastic touchscreen hooked up to a dated desktop Mac, which was an attempt to emulate a low-powered mobile processor. The result was a prototype phone which featured wipe-to-unlock, no physical keyboard and all the music-playing features of the company's then-successful iPod series. The WSJ explains:

Christie's team pored over details like the perfect speed for scrolling lists on the phone and the natural feel of bouncing back when arriving at the end of a list. He said his team "banged their head against the wall" over how to change text messages from a chronological list of individual messages to a series of separate ongoing conversations similar to instant messaging on a computer.

That all, fortunately for Christie, was enough to convince Jobs that the team was headed in the right direction. Not that things got any easier: what followed was, in Christie's words, a "two and a half year marathon" where Jobs obsessed over every detail and demanded covert presentations — in a windowless room! — twice a month. It's well worth giving the full article a read. [WSJ]

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