Mobility

Why Microsoft is partially responsible for the first iPhone, and other origin stories

The real reason Apple started build its infamous phone was due to founder Steve Jobs' feelings about a particular Microsoft employee.

Want to know the real reason why Apple started building the iPhone? Apparently, it was because founder Steve Jobs just "hated this guy at Microsoft."

That revelation came from former Apple software engineer Scott Forstall, who recently spoke with Computer History Museum historian John Markoff about the history of the iPhone and iPad. Apple was originally working on a tablet project before the iPhone, Forstall said, that was brought about because of Jobs's loathing of this particular employee.

"Every time Steve [Jobs] had any social interaction with that guy, he would come back pissed off," Forstall said.

SEE: Apple's first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez

This employee continually bragged to Jobs about how Microsoft had solved tablet computing, and that the company was going to rule the market with a stylus-based tablet, which angered Jobs, according to Forstall. As a response, Jobs decided that Apple was going to compete.

In a Monday morning meeting that opened with a string of expletives, Jobs said that Apple was going to show Microsoft "how it's really done," Forstall said. The main difference was that Apple was going after a form factor that didn't require a stylus.

Resistive touch was the popular method for touch screens at the time, but Jobs charged the team to use capacitive touch and multi-touch, Forstall said. And that began the journey which eventually birthed the iPhone.

Another story, highlighted in a New York Times report on the book The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant, explained how the iPhone was internally referred to simply by the code name Purple. The pressure to produce was immense, and it created much drama and stress for the people involved in the project, according to the book.

Another infamous story around the launch of the iPhone has to do with its screen. The iPhone is known for using Gorilla Glass, but the early prototypes used plastic. After carrying a prototype iPhone in his pocket, Jobs noticed that his keys had scratched the screen. This was unacceptable.

So, shortly before the launch of the iPhone, Jobs demanded that the plastic screen be replaced with one made of unscratchable glass. The timeline he gave them? Six weeks. Still, the change was implemented, and the iPhone made it to market on time.

The iPhone went on to become one of the most popular smartphones of all time, and redefined the landscape for mobile devices. More than 10 years later, the company has sold more than one billion iPhones.

Also see

jobs.jpg
Image: James Martin/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox