Updated: January 10, 2021 7:12:45 pm
He was considered to be the master of tech presentations, but most people agree that Steve Jobs’ greatest presentation perhaps was that of the iPhone. On January 9, 2007, Jobs introduced the world to a new kind of phone, a phone that would do to smartphones what the Macintosh had done to personal computers in 1984 – literally change how we used them, even while making them far easier to use. Of course, like the Macintosh in 1984, the iPhone was not a perfect device. It had its share of flaws.
But just as the Macintosh in 1984, the iPhone rose above its shortcomings thanks to its inherent strengths. What it did was far more important and impactful than what it did not. And a major reason that people noticed what it did was Jobs’ masterly presentation. So, as the iPhone completes 14 years of being in the spotlight, here are ten amazing facts from that launch, with quotes from the event:
‘We are calling it iPhone’ (Although we cannot legally do so…)
Perhaps the most memorable lines of the presentation were Jobs saying:
“An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … Are you getting it?
These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.”
Well, the interesting part is that according to many sources, Apple at that stage did NOT have the rights to the ‘iPhone’ name. That name was legally with Cisco which had obtained it when it acquired a company called Infogear in 2000. Infogear incidentally was reported to have been selling devices called iPhones for a while! Apple and Cisco settled their differences over the name later, but many consider Jobs’ decision to go ahead and use the name in spite of not having proper legal rights to it yet as one of the greatest gambles in not just the history of tech, but in branding as well. It sure paid off!
‘We’re gonna use the best pointing device in the world’
Jobs highlighted how the mouse had changed how we used computers in the Macintosh. But of course, using a mouse with a phone was not an option as no one wanted to carry a mouse around. Jobs considered the alternatives:
“So what are we gonna do? Oh, a stylus, right? We’re gonna use a stylus. No. No. Who wants a stylus? You have to get em and put em away, and you lose em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.”
He then introduced us to what he called the best pointing device in the world.
“We’re gonna use the best pointing device in the world. We’re gonna use a pointing device that we’re all born with – we’re born with ten of them. We’re gonna use our fingers. We’re gonna touch this with our fingers.”
And then he introduced a new word to our vocabulary – multi-touch – which he in his typically understated way, said was “phenomenal.”
‘It runs OS X’
There has been a lot of talk about how the operating systems on the iPad, iPhone and Mac devices have been converging. Well, in the first iPhone, Jobs was pretty direct about the operating system on the device. He said it up front:
“ iPhone runs OS X Now, why, why would we wanna run such a sophisticated operating system on a mobile device? Well, because it’s got everything we need. It’s got multi-tasking. It’s got the best networking. We’ve been doing this on mobile computers for years. It’s got awesome security. And the right apps…Not the crippled stuff that you find on most phones. This is real, desktop-class applications.”
Of course, it would later emerge that the OS X on the iPhone was quite a different version from the ones we had on our notebooks, but it was a terrific point to make. And it also highlighted the importance of the desktop experience on the iPhone, especially at a time when most smartphones were coming with watered-down mobile or WAP versions of apps and websites. He would keep making the point throughout the presentation – how the iPhone behaved more like a desktop computer than a phone. And the reference to OS X made the claim very believable!
‘The killer app is…’
What did Jobs consider to be the killer app (a term he made legendary) on the iPhone? Well, for the touch controls and radical interface, he actually took us back to basics.
“We wanna reinvent the phone. Now, what’s the killer app? The killer app is making calls!”
He said and proceeded to show how easy it was to make phone calls on the iPhone. And of course made a famous conference call to two of his colleagues and friends, Jony Ive and Phil Schiller (who famously complained: “I wanted to be the first call,” as Jobs had first called Ive.)
‘I just take my finger, and I scroll’
The killer app might have been calling but one of the most remarkable features of the iPhone was how you could scroll by just running your finger on the display. And Jobs chose to showcase this feature in perhaps his favourite part of the display – the music and videos section.
“Well, how do I scroll through my lists of artists? How do I do this? I just take my finger, and I scroll. That’s it. Isn’t that cool? Touch your music.…scroll through your songs, scroll through your playlists.”
And he smiled as a world that had been used to fiddling with styluses and buttons watched, amazed. Of course, he knew how important this was, because he added:
“I was giving a demo to somebody a little while ago, who had never seen this before, inside Apple. And…I said “What do you think?” He told me…”You had me at scrolling.”
He pretty much had the world too!
‘We’ve got a two-megapixel camera built right in’ (and that’s it for photography, folks!)
It is interesting to know that although the iPhone is now known to have one of the best phone cameras in the world, Jobs hardly referred to the first iPhone’s camera in his presentation. He did make a reference to a two-megapixel camera – “On the back, the biggest thing of note is we’ve got a two-megapixel camera built right in.” But that was about it.
‘I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please’
Another magical moment of the presentation was when Jobs showed everyone how amazing Google Maps was (thermonuclear war had not yet been declared on Android, and Apple Maps did not exist). He said he wanted a cup of coffee, looked up Starbucks, picked up and then called it right from the app itself, for perhaps the most famous coffee call of them all:
“Yes, I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please.
No, just kidding, wrong number. Thank you. Bye-bye. OK.”
Point made. The Barista who took the call became a celebrity for a while, not surprisingly.
‘This is unbelievable…We have widgets!’
Remember the enthusiasm about support for widgets in iOS 14? Well, a lot of folks do not remember that the original iPhone actually did NOT come with support for installing third-party apps. What it did have was some very neat widgets, which pulled data from websites. So well, believe it or not, Jobs was talking about how cool widgets were well before Android made them a rage.
“This is unbelievable, wait ’til you see it. We have widgets, starting off with weather and stocks. And this communicates with the Internet over EDGE and wi-fi.”
‘You know, when I was in high school…’
Not too many people remember but the iPhone presentation actually crashed towards the end, with the display not responding to Jobs. “Clicker not working,” Jobs called out to the backstage, and without pausing quickly switched to an anecdote about how Steve Wozniak and he used to make their friends pose weirdly to get TV transmission. It is an amazing example of crisis management, although Jobs himself did end up hitting a weird pose in the process. He did it well, that said.
‘It’s not too shabby, is it?’
How would you describe the first iPhone? People ran out of adjectives, and Jobs himself used a fair number of them. From “amazing” to “revolutionary” to “gorgeous” to “radical,” the first iPhone got them all. However, perhaps the most remarkable reaction to it came from one of those who designed it. When Steve Jobs called up Apple’s design wiz Jony Ive on stage to showcase the calling ability of the iPhone, he ended by asking him:
“Jony, do you have anything to say on the first phone call?”
Ive, in his quiet understated way, responded in the most un-Apple way possible:
“It’s not too shabby, is it?”
And this prompted a smile from the man who many considered his best friend and mentor, and he added
“It’s not too shabby. You take care, Jony.”
It wasn’t too shabby. Not at all. We did not know it at that stage.
But the Godphone had arrived.
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