How Apple kept the iPhone top secret for 30 months

“One of the most astonishing things about the new Apple iPhone, introduced yesterday by Steve Jobs at the annual Macworld trade show, is how Apple managed to keep it a secret for nearly two-and-a-half years of development while working with partners like Cingular, Yahoo and Google,” Peter H. Lewis reports for Fortune.

“Apple, legendary for the ferocity with which it safeguards new product announcements, had extraordinary challenges in keeping the iPhone under wraps for 30 months. Besides involving Cingular, Google and Yahoo, not to mention the unnamed Asian manufacturer, the project touched nearly every department within Apple itself, Jobs said, more so than in any previous Apple creation,” Lewis reports.

Lewis reports, “Although their applications will be crucial parts of the iPhone experience, neither Yahoo nor Google saw the actual phone until shortly before the keynote, Jobs said. The software development was done without needing to provide a hardware prototype. In some cases, Apple deliberately disguised software builds, known as ‘stacks,’ to keep programmers from seeing the actual interface.”

Lewis reports, “In the end, Apple decided to reveal the iPhone several months ahead of its official June launch because it could not keep the secret any more. Apple has to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the permits needed to operate the iPhone, and once those public filings are made, Apple has no control over the release of that information. So, Jobs said, he made the decision to have Apple tell the world about its new phone, rather than the FCC.”

Lewis reports, “Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing and one of the few Apple executives involved with the project from the start, said he had to keep the iPhone development secret even from his wife and children. When he left home for the official unveiling yesterday, Schiller said, his son asked, ‘Dad, can you finally tell us now what you’ve been working on?’ Jobs paused during the keynote to acknowledge the strain and sacrifices that the past months have brought not just for the employees who kept the secrets so well, but also for their families. ‘We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said, with obvious sincerity.'”

More in the full article here.

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34 Comments

  1. OK, yes, they kept the details secret, they kept the facts secret, but there were tens of thousands of uninvolved folk who were certain they knew the whole story – and were mostly right! We knew:
    – large screen
    – touch-sensitive screen
    – no ‘hard’ keyboard
    – iPod integration
    – ‘social’
    – internet access
    Jobs spent over an hour describing the details so you can be sure we missed a few things.
    Some of us thought there’d be a minimalized OSX inside. The rest said ‘no, that would be a disaster’. We were all ‘sort of’ right – Apple claims they got the whole thing in there.
    Most of us knew there would be a way to view the screen in both directions, I don’t recall anyone guessing it would be automatic.

    DLMeyer – the Voice of G.L.Horton’s Stage Page

  2. my gripes with the iPhone:

    – no 3G
    – crippled WiFi (no over the air iTunes downloads)
    – No removable battery
    – same scratch prone back as iPod
    – $499 for 4GB? are you kidding me?!!!
    – Yes it runs OSX but don’t expect to write software for it and be able to install it on there (Apple warez only)

    No thanks, I’ll hold out a little longer for the ZunePhone.

  3. Everything, everything we saw yesterday has been described countless times during the past year or so.

    The only secret – Leopard is the last cat out of the bag. Apple is finished with Maintosh and has left the computer business.

    How sad – brilliant computers, brilliant software (even with all the problems), tossed away because the world is overloaded with kids who can’t resist the siren song of Master Ringmaster Steven Jobs!

  4. Maybe, but every rumour was based upon what everyone expected, not what they knew was coming. I could make a reasonable wishlist for practically any product and guess what it will have. Slick as it is, the iPhone is exactly what we expected from Apple.

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