When Steve Jobs stood on the MacWorld stage in 2007, most of those in attendance sensed that something different was about to happen. Apple was rumored to be working on a smartphone, although hardly anyone knew exactly what that meant. Could it be an iPod that could make phone calls? And, if so, would it still have a click wheel?
These were real questions that, in hindsight, were a sign that no one had any idea what the iPhone would be or become. It’s impossible to know what you don’t know, and, as excited as everyone was back then, the iPhone was an expensive mobile phone that you could only use with one carrier, AT&T.
Yet the “revolutionary mobile phone” Jobs held in his hand would become the most successful product in history and make Apple the most valuable company of all time.
It’s hard to remember, with hindsight, that this was not a foregone conclusion. In fact, there are at least three ways the iPhone could have failed completely.
The agreement with AT&T
Until the iPhone, the functionality of every mobile phone sold was largely dictated by mobile operators. Not only that, but they usually came with a bunch of bloatware that no one wanted, but the companies installed a way to charge you extra.
Jobs convinced AT&T (Cingular at the time) to agree to a groundbreaking deal to be the exclusive carrier for the iPhone. In return, Apple would receive $ 10 per month, per customer, while retaining full control over the design of the iPhone. He even convinced the mobile operator to develop a whole new feature, known as visual voicemail, exclusive to the iPhone.
If Apple hadn’t been able to strike a deal with one of the carriers, there wouldn’t have been an iPhone. Apple didn’t have its own cellular network, and it seems unlikely that Jobs was willing to compromise on his take on the iPhone.
There was almost no App Store
When the iPhone was first released in 2007, there were 16 apps. That was it. There was no App Store, and the only third-party app available was Google Maps, which didn’t even have a detailed route since the iPhone didn’t have GPS. It wasn’t until early 2008 that Jobs agreed that the iPhone should have a store where developers could distribute apps. It turned out to be one of the most important decisions in business history.
I think it’s fair to say that the App Store is as much an integral part of the iPhone experience as the touchscreen is. Without the ability to install third-party apps, the iPhone would have been a new mobile device, and I’m sure a lot of people would have continued to buy them.
I think, however, that it’s unlikely that this has transformed the way we get information, communicate with people, and interact with the world around us. It’s the App Store that makes the iPhone such a powerful platform, and it’s this combination that generates more than half of all Apple’s revenue.
“We don’t have a product yet.”
In a demo in 2006, the iPhone prototype was a train wreck. Its software was full of bugs and didn’t do much of what it would have to do in just a few months if Apple were to ever ship the iPhone. Jobs told his team “we don’t have a product yet” and fired the engineers, who were all working in secret, to fix all the things that were broken.
It was a stressful few months, but Apple was on a deadline. Failure was not an option, but it was an incredibly real possibility. He was to ship the iPhone – or at least something he could demonstrate – by MacWorld. If it hadn’t, Apple wouldn’t simply have failed to live up to expectations, it might never have become what it is today: the most profitable company in the world with the most successful product. most successful of all time.