Apple engineer recalls the iPhone’s birth, Steve Jobs’ ultimatum

“In February 2005, Apple Inc.’s then chief executive, Steve Jobs, gave senior software engineer Greg Christie an ultimatum,” Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Christie’s team had been struggling for months to lay out the software vision for what would become the iPhone as well as how the parts would work together. Now, Mr. Jobs said the team had two weeks or he would assign the project to another group. ‘Steve had pretty much had it,’ said Mr. Christie, who still heads Apple’s user-interface team. ‘He wanted bigger ideas and bigger concepts.'”

“Mr. Christie’s team devised many iPhone features, such as swiping to unlock the phone, placing calls from the address book, and a touch-based music player,” Wakabayashi reports. “The iPhone ditched the keyboard then common on advanced phones for a display that covered the device’s entire surface, and it ran software that more closely resembled personal-computer programs. Mr. Christie has never publicly discussed the early development of the iPhone. But Apple made him available on the eve of a new patent-infringement trial against Samsung Electronics Co. to highlight a key element of its legal strategy — just how innovative the iPhone was in 2007, when it arrived.”

“For several months, Mr. Christie made twice-monthly presentations to Mr. Jobs in a windowless meeting room on the second floor of Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. Only a handful of employees had access to the room; cleaning people weren’t allowed in,” Wakabayashi reports. “The day after Mr. Christie’s team finally impressed Mr. Jobs with its vision of the iPhone software, it had to repeat the presentation for Bill Campbell, an Apple director and close Jobs confidant. Mr. Christie recalled Mr. Campbell saying the phone would be better than the original Mac.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Arline M.” for the heads up.]


    1. Me too. an iPhone4, 5 and 5S. Same story. I entered the Apple ecosphere via a MacBook Pro in 2010, and I went from white-hot hatred of my previous Vista laptop to pure bliss. I bought a used 4 from an acquaintance when the 4S released and discovered again the joy of owning something that always works flawlessly. Now, two more iPhones, 3 iPads, 2AppleTVs and an iPod (of course) later, I can’t imagine using anything but Apple products for my computing needs.

  1. Some people talk without checking their facts. Here is a well-known exchange between a senior manager and Cook, a few years back:

    “Cook convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia. ‘This is really bad,’ Cook told the group. ‘Someone should be in China driving this.’ Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, with a trace of emotion, ‘Why are you still here?’ Khan was on the next flight to China.”

    1. I well remember this story, and loved it at the time. It’s a false premise that speaking quietly means you’re passive. It may just mean you’re polite.

      It would be foolish to believe that Apple’s operational success over the past decade came about solely by fear of Steve’s reactions. Tim is no pushover.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.