Bogus prototypes, bullying the press, stifling pillow talk -- all to
keep iPhone under wraps. Fortune's Peter Lewis goes inside one of the
year's biggest tech launches.
By Peter H. Lewis, Fortune senior editor
January 10 2007: 7:00 PM EST
SAN FRANCISCO (Fortune) -- One of the most astonishing things about
the new Apple iPhone, introduced yesterday by Steve Jobs at the
annual Macworld trade show, is how Apple (Charts) managed to keep it
a secret for nearly two-and-a-half years of development while working
with partners like Cingular, Yahoo (Charts) and Google (Charts).
The iPhone, which won't be available in the United States until June,
represents a close development partnership with America's largest
wireless phone company (Cingular, now a part of AT&T (Charts), has 58
million subscribers), the world's largest e-mail service (Yahoo has a
quarter-billion subscribers worldwide), and the world's dominant
search company. Although speculation was rampant before the
introduction that Apple would introduce a phone with iPod capabilities,
actual details of the device were scarce. Even some senior Apple
managers whispered during the keynote that they were seeing the iPhone
for the first time, along with the 4,000 other Apple followers who
crammed the Moscone meeting center here. Indeed, Apple's emphasis on
secrecy may have influenced Apple's choice of Cingular to be the
exclusive provider for iPhone service in the United States.
Apple, legendary for the ferocity with which it safeguards new product
announcements, had extraordinary challenges in keeping the iPhone
under wraps for 30 months. Besides involving Cingular, Google and
Yahoo, not to mention the unnamed Asian manufacturer, the project
touched nearly every department within Apple itself, Jobs said, more
so than in any previous Apple creation.