The design of the original iPhone has surprising origin story.
The now iconic design came about because of a personal grudge Steve Jobs had against a Microsoft exec.
Speaking at an event Tuesday, Scott Forstall, who lead Apple’s iOS software division under Jobs, recounted the surprising history behind the company’s first touchscreen prototype, which ultimately lead to the first iPhone.
It all began, Forstall said, because Jobs had an acquaintance at Microsoft who he really, really, didn’t like.
“It began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft,” Forstall said during the event. “Any time Steve had any interaction with the guy, he’d come back pissed off.”
The unnamed Microsoft exec, who was apparently the husband of a friend of Jobs’ wife, apparently bragged so much it pushed Jobs over the edge.
Forstall says Apple’s tablet project started because Steve Jobs because of a guy at Microsoft who he HATED
— Karissa Bell (@karissabe) June 21, 2017
“He just shoved it in Steve’s face — the way they were going to rule the world with their new tablets with their pens. He came in on Monday with a set of expletives and then was like ‘let’s show them how it’s really done.’ “
“Let’s show them how it’s really done.”
Among Jobs’ critiques of Microsoft’s technology: it relied on resistive touch, the type of touchscreen technology that was common before the iPhone made capacitive touch multitouch displays commonplace; and — of course — Jobs’ famed hatred of styluses.
“You don’t use a stylus… we’re born with ten styluses,” Forstall recalled Jobs saying.
So Jobs’ team created the prototype of a working multitouch display. Forstall said even then, it was clear the technology would be revolutionary.
“The moment you saw that, you knew this was the way to go.”
In fact, when Jobs later decided Apple should make a smartphone, he turned to that first tablet prototype and tasked his engineers with creating a phone-sized version.
“Steve said, ‘do you think you could take that demo that we’re doing with the tablet and the multitouch and shrink it down to something small enough to fit in your pocket?’ We went back to the design team and they took it and they carved out a corner of it.”
“Steve saw it and said ‘put the tablet on hold, let’s build a phone.’ And that’s what we did.”
The rest, of course, is history: Apple’s most important product was born.