Apple stock was at $87 that day, as Jobs proudly displayed on the iPhone's native Stocks app during the keynote. It surged to $92 by the end of the day. Six years later, it closed at $517
It's a widescreen iPod! No, wait, it's a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email! Best of all, it comes with Cingular phone service and Google’s groundbreaking maps!
It was six years ago Wednesday that Steve Jobs strode on stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to deliver the Macworld keynote that introduced us to Apple's latest product: something called the iPhone.
It's almost impossible to comprehend how much has changed in just six years. Jobs, alas, is no longer with us; his job has gone to the man whose visual voicemail was played at the keynote, Tim Cook. Apple no longer participates at Macworld. Oh, and the product Jobs introduced that day went on to lead a touchscreen smartphone revolution that has swept the entire planet.
Apple stock was at $87 that day, as Jobs proudly displayed on the iPhone's native Stocks app during the keynote. It surged to $92 by the end of the day. Six years later, it closed at $517 — and that's more than $100 below its high water mark.
One of the oddest features of the keynote, from today's perspective, was the presence of Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google and member of the Apple board. Schmidt ran to the stage to congratulate Jobs and joked that they should merge the companies into "AppleGoo." (His company had bought a startup called Android two years' previously, but the first Androidsmartphone was still just a twinkle in Schmidt's eye.)
"You can't think of the Internet without thinking of Google," Jobs gushed, as he enthused about the search function in the Safari app and the Maps app the companies had developed together. Four years later, Jobs would be threatening to wage "thermonuclear war" against Android and accusing Schmidt of stealing the idea. Five years later, the companies would be at loggerheads over Maps.
Looking at the keynote again now, and reading the press release Apple issued that day,
you can see the company struggling to define the device in terms the public would understand. A hundred million clickwheel iPods — what we now think of as the "classic" iPod — had been sold at that point, so the first definition Jobs reached for was "widescreen iPod."
Watch the full keynote, below, and you'll notice the audience oohing and aahing at things we take for granted today, such as scrolling through your music on the touchscreen.
I happened to be in that audience, and can remember being wowed by the presentation. But I can also remember all the reasons I was skeptical. iPhone (it took the device some time to add a "the" before its name) had a maximum 8GB of memory at a time when the largest iPod was a tremendous 160GB.
All sorts of things were unproven until we could get our hands on one. The screen seemed like it would scratch really easily. Nobody knew how well the error correction would work (or, as it turned out, not work) on the touchscreen keyboard. It cost $599. Cingular, which had just been snapped up by AT&T, wasn't exactly the best cellphone provider in the known universe.
Would it really get as much as five hours of talk time? Would it really ship in June? Would the carrier really refrain from putting all sorts of layers of crap on top of the software, as they did on every single other phone out there?
Still, I, and every tech journalist I knew, were hoping it wasn't too good to be true. The smartphones we had then — yes, we called our Palms and BlackBerrys smartphones — were starting to lose their luster. The time was ripe for something new, especially something with a pinch-and-zoom Internet browser. And all that space for extra apps on the homescreen meant something. Maybe Apple would even let developers submit their own apps.
So happy sixth birthday, iPhone, you little prodigy. How far you've come in such a short space of time. And how little we can imagine where you'll be in another six years. But we're really looking forward to your 2019 keynote.