“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 that 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,” Lev Grossman reports for Time Magazine.

Grossman reports, “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 them.”

“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,” Grossman reports.

Grossman reports, “The iPhone breaks two basic axioms of consumer technology. One, when you take an application and put it on a phone, that application must be reduced to a crippled and annoying version of itself. Two, when you take two devices—such as an iPod and a phone—and squish them into one, both devices must necessarily become lamer versions of themselves. The iPhone is a phone, an iPod, and a mini-Internet computer all at once, and contrary to Newton—who knew a thing or two about apples—they all occupy the same space at the same time, but without taking a hit in performance. In a way iPhone is the wrong name for it. It’s a handheld computing platform that just happens to contain a phone.”

Grossman reports, “All technologists believe their products are better than other people’s, or at least they say they do, but Jobs believes it a little more than most. In the hours we spent talking about the iPhone, Jobs trash-talked the Treo, the BlackJack, the Sony PSP and the Sony Mylo (“just garbage compared to this”), Windows Vista (“It’s just a copy of an old version of Mac OSX”) and of course Microsoft’s would-be iPod killer, Zune.”

Oh, there’s more. The full article, highly recommended, is here.
iPhone is the wrong name for it. Grossman’s correct: “It’s a handheld computing platform that just happens to contain a phone.” And that handheld computing platform is Mac OS X.

Related articles:
Analyst: Apple iPhone should be given its own category – ‘brilliantphone’ – January 09, 2007
Cingular to use Synchronoss Technologies’ platform for Apple iPhone – January 09, 2007
Is Apple building ‘The Device?’ [revisited] – January 09, 2007
iPhone photos from Apple’s Macworld Expo booth – January 09, 2007
Enderle: Apple’s iPhone is going to do very well – January 09, 2007
Apple debuts iPhone: touchscreen mobile phone + widescreen iPod + Internet communicator – January 09, 2007

The Register’s Ray: Apple ‘iPhone’ will fail – December 26, 2006
Analyst: Apple iPhone economics aren’t that compelling – December 08, 2006
CNET editor Kanellos: ‘Apple iPhone will largely fail’ – December 07, 2006
Palm CEO laughs off Apple ‘iPhone’ threat – November 20, 2006