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iDay almost here

Nothing to do now but sit back and watch

June 28, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - After five months, 20 days and some odd hours of increasingly surreal hype, tomorrow's coming-out party for Apple Inc.'s iPhone will be anticlimactic. It has to be. The hunt for clues will be over, all the guessing will be over and done, and all that will remain will be hard reality. Sink or swim? Home run or foul tip? Best damn piece of consumer electronics gear ever or just another phone?

It has been a long, strange trip -- to paraphrase a band whose music has played in the background during at least one MacWorld. This launch will undoubtedly be rehashed in college marketing classrooms and will certainly add to the story arc of Apple and its CEO, Steve Jobs. Not that Jobs didn't contribute to the narrative himself. When he unveiled the iPhone in January, he called the new device -- a combination cell phone/video iPod/Internet device -- "revolutionary."

"Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything," he said from a stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Apple likes the "R" word. The seminal book on the creation of the Mac, Andy Hertzfeld's Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made (O'Reilly Media Inc., 2004), uses it. So does the copy that touts the current Mac OS X 10.4, a.k.a. Tiger. "Start a Revolution on Your Desktop," reads the subhead. "Mac OS X Tiger will change the way you use a computer," runs the text. Jobs even dropped the word in an e-mail yesterday to Apple employees, according to Engadget. "We're launching the most revolutionary and exciting product in Apple's history this Friday. And given Apple's legacy of breakthrough products, that's saying a lot," he said.

This revolution, though, was preannounced. Jobs held up the iPhone months before it was to release and spelled out the details, a dramatic departure for the usually secretive Apple. But like most revolutions, this one had its victories and defeats, skirmishes and full-out battles.

Network hardware maker Cisco filed a lawsuit within days of the iPhone's debut, claiming that it owned the trademark. Six weeks later, the two companies made peace and said they'd share the name. Apple's stock took a 2.2% dive in mid-May because one blog rumored that the iPhone was to be delayed four months. Scads of analysts and pundits and bloggers and reporters wrote words and words and more words about a product none had ever touched, put both zealotry and cynicism into play, and praised or criticized everything from AT&T Inc.'s slow EDGE data network to the lack of a physical keyboard.

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