Early iPhone Rumors Give Insight into Apple's 'iSlate'

Paul Sloan in Business 2.0, April 2005 issue:

Apple fans–and a fair number of nonfans–lust for some sort of Apple phone. The infuriating design and general clunkiness of most mobile phones today cry out for the Apple touch. Jobs has teamed up with Motorola to make a phone that will let users play a handful of songs downloaded from iTunes. But this could be just a prelude to Apple’s entrance into the phone market. With Motorola, Apple has already helped build a prototype of a combination phone/iPod that resembles the iPod in look and feel, according to someone familiar with it.

Scorecard: Correctly argues that Apple could create a superior phone experience; mentions the red-herring scroll wheel and slide-out keyboard ideas, but also says Apple might use “a simple touchpad system on the screen.” Rightly says that Jobs wouldn’t accept the normal manufacturer-carrier relationship but isn’t bold enough to guess he could cut a deal with a major carrier to give Apple an unprecedented degree of control. Overall, not bad!

Harry McCracken (hey, that’s me!) at PC World, March 22nd, 2006:

Australian site Smarthouse is reporting that insiders at [a] Taiwanese manufacturing powerhouse are saying that Apple is definitely working on its own phone. I’ll believe it when Steve Jobs pulls it from his jeans pocket at a keynote and pronounces it incredible, but it does seem like a logical move: I’m not sure if there’s a single phone in the world that’s at good at doing what it does as the iPod is at doing what it does. A terrific music phone could be the kind of game-changing product that’s Apple’s core competency.

Playing devil’s advocate, though, designing wireless phones is no cakewalk–there’s a reason why there aren’t all that many companies in the world that do it. Even with help, it would be a huge step for Apple.

And the swiss-army knife philosophy of today’s phones seems anything but Jobsian. Would the iPhone play music, capture still photos and video, do e-mail and browsing, and be a mobile gaming platform (oh, and let you make phone calls)? Or could Apple get away with introducing an elegant device that did voice, music, and possibly video extremely well–and didn’t even try to do anything else?

Scorecard: I’m smart enough in this PC World post to declare I’m playing devil’s advocate and to toss out questions rather than make definitive statements–a squishy approach that’s hard to fact-check. I do, however, say I think it’s unlike Steve Jobs to make a phone that could play music, capture images, retrieve e-mail, surf the Web, play games, and make phone calls. Wrong!

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