Apple's iPhone: the untold story

Apple is one of the most secretive companies on the planet, so the Apple-Samsung trial was fascinating in that it lifted the veil of secrecy that typically shrouds Apple's operations. From marketing budgets to photos of never-before-seen iPhone prototypes, the evidence introduced at trial gave the world an unprecedented glimpse into the inner workings of Apple.

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One of the more interesting stories to emerge from the trial centers on the development of the original iPhone. Piecing together statements made by Apple executives at trial and during depositions conducted in anticipation of trial, along with public statements made by Steve Jobs and other Apple employees in the past, we now have a clearer idea of how the iPhone came to be.

It all began as a tablet

The iPhone actually began as a tablet project. Indeed, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller testified that the success of the iPod and the disruptive effect it had on the music industry prompted Apple to think about what other industries it could tackle.

The iPod, Schiller explained, "really changed everybody's view of Apple both inside and outside the company." Schiller said that as ideas were tossed about regarding Apple's next leap, everything was fair game, with some at the company going so far as to suggest Apple look into developing a stand-alone camera, or even a car.

But once some of the more grandiose ideas began to dissipate, the Apple brain trust began focusing their attention on creating a tablet.

Scott Forstall, who currently serves as Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software, explained the early beginnings of Apple's interest in tablet computing: "In 2003, we had built all these great Macs and laptops and we started asking ourselves what comes next. One thought we settled on was a tablet. We settled pretty quickly if we could investigate doing that with a touchscreen, so we started investigating and building prototypes."

During his 2010 appearance at the All Things D conference, Steve Jobs explained to Walt Mossberg how Apple's interest in creating a tablet soon gave way to the iPhone.

"I had this idea about having a glass display [tablet], a multi-touch display you could type on. I asked our people about it. And six months later they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He then got inertial scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, 'my god, we can build a phone with this' and we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the phone."

Indeed, inertial scrolling, otherwise known as "rubber band scrolling" was a patent Steve Jobs particularly cared about and, not surprisingly, was asserted against Samsung in the recent trial.

Recalling that aha! moment, Forstall explained: "I'll never forget we took that tablet and built a small scrolling list. On the tablet, we were doing pinch and zoom. So we built a small list to scroll on contacts and then you could tap on it to call. We realized that a touchscreen that was the size that would fit in your pocket would be perfect for the phone."

And so, in late 2004, the idea to create a uniquely Apple smartphone was born.

As work on the tablet project stopped, Apple began dedicating resources towards creating a phone, a daunting task for a company with no previous significant experience in the cellphone industry, save for the flop that was the Motorola ROKR.

But as Schiller explained at trial, Apple saw a lackluster market it could really deliver some innovation to. "At the time, cellphones weren't any good as entertainment devices," Schiller said.

And with the iTunes Store already a runaway success at that point, Apple knew a thing or two about delivering media content to portable devices.

Project Purple: Creating iOS

A 15-year Apple veteran, Forstall's history with Steve Jobs goes all the way back to 1992 when Forstall, then a recent Stanford graduate, began working at NeXT - the company Jobs founded after his unceremonious exit from Apple in the mid-1980s.

Forstall soon became one of Jobs' most trusted lieutenants, having played integral roles in the development of various iterations of OS X. It's therefore not surprising that Forstall was the one tapped by Jobs to create the software that would power Apple's revolutionary device.

Jobs gave Forstall free rein to handle development of what would later be known as iOS, albeit with one constraint - Jobs told Forstall was that he was not allowed to hire anybody from outside the company. Instead, Forstall was free to choose anyone he wanted from within Apple to join the nascent iPhone team.

With that directive in tow, Forstall scoured the ranks at Apple and honed in on the company's best and brightest engineers as potential additions to the team.

But due to the secretive nature of the project, Forstall wasn't even able to tell potential iPhone team members what Apple was working on or even who they might be working under. Instead, potential team members were given a rather cryptic offer.

Forstall told them that Apple was working on something great and that if they chose to join the team they'd have to "work hard, give up nights, work weekends for years."

Before long, Forstall had assembled a core team to work on the iPhone's software and it was time to get to business.

On a heavily secured floor in a building on Apple's campus, the original iPhone team got to work. As one would expect, security on the floor was extremely stringent, equipped with security card readers and even video monitors to monitor activity. Forstall recalled, "The team took one of Apple's Cupertino buildings and locked it down. It started with a single floor with badge readers and cameras. In some cases, even workers on the team would have to show their badges five or six times."

Within Apple, the secretive iPhone project was referred to as Project Purple and the building where the work was taking place was called the "purple dorm."

At trial, Forstall explained that the long hours spent there made the "purple dorm" feel like a college dorm of sorts. "People were there all the time. It smelled like pizza," Forstall noted.

And highlighting the secretive nature of their work, the team put up a poster of "Fight Club", because you know, the first rule of Project Purple is that you don't talk about Project Purple.

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