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Apple's iPhone: The untold story

Originally conceived as a tablet, iPhone was developed in secret facility dubbed the ``purple dorm.''

By Yoni Heisler, Network World
September 13, 2012 09:12 AM ET

Network World - 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."

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