Regarding our iPhone

Lot of people ask me why the frig is it taking you guys so long to make a friggin phone? I mean, how hard can it be? I mean, friggin Disney has a phone service and a bunch of phones, and their stuff is made by friggin Keebler elves or something. (In fact Bob Iger is one of the dudes who’s been busting my stones on this.) You have to understand how we do things at Apple. We think different. So, por ejemplo, as they say in the Netherlands, we don’t start with the phone, or the software. We start with the ads. We’ll spend months doing storyboards, writing slogans, making fake billboards that we put up in one of our windowless warehouses. I realize this is the reverse of how most companies do it. Just about everybody else starts with the product, and only when it’s done do they go, Oh, wait, we gotta come up with some sort of ad, don’t we? Which is why most advertising sucks, because it’s an afterthought. Not here. At Apple, advertising is a pre-thought. And if we can’t come up with a good ad, you know what? We probably won’t do the product. It’s why we’re different. (And no, the one you see here is not the actual iPhone.)

Anyhoo, once we’ve got the ad campaign, then we get to work on the product. But we don’t start with the actual technology. We start with design. Again, different. Jon Ive will bring me, say, fifteen iPhone prototypes. These are all beautiful phones, better than all of the phones on the market today. But you know what? For Apple they’re not good enough. Not even close. I take them into my meditation room and just look at them. I go into a kind of trance. And here’s the key part: I don’t think about them. I don’t think about anything. Not so easy to do, to think about nothing. Try it and see. But after years of practice I can empty my head and get into this non-thinking state in about fifteen minutes. I’ll spend a few hours just sitting there, non-thinking about the fifteen prototypes, and gradually, very gradually, I begin to become aware that one is emerging from the others as the best of the bunch. When that happens I’m done. (And I’m usually so exhausted that I just go home and sleep.) I’ll send the “emergent design,” as we call it, back to Jon Ive and tell him to start all over, making a hundred or so new prototypes that branch off from this one. From those hundred they will winnow down the pool, relying on their own meetings (which can get quite heated, believe me) plus some contributions from consultants that we bring in to check out things like the feng shui, emotional balance, interior and exterior harmony, and so forth. When they’ve got another batch of fifteen “winners” they bring them to me, and I return to the meditation room once again and empty my mind and choose the next “emergent” design.

This can go on for months, with round after round of emergent designs, and it’s all based on non-thinking, intuitive kind of interpretation, just an emotional reaction. When we finally have settled on a single physical prototype, only then do we start working on chips and software. And we don’t just outsource the job the way the MicroTards did with the Zune. We make our own special chips. Our own special software. This process can take months, with teams working all over the globe, in China, Europe, and Cupertino. Then we put the chips and software into the physical design and see how it feels; and unfortunately it often occurs that the software is amazing but it just doesn’t feel right in this physical package, and so we have to go back and redesign the phone all over again, employing the same “emergent design” winnowing process. Or sometimes the phone just doesn’t look right in the advertisements, and so we have to redesign for that reason, too.

When we’re done with all that, there’s the color issue. Do you have any idea how many shades of black there are? And white? And then you have to consider finishes. Satin, matte, glossy, high-gloss. And there’s the combination of finish and color. I’ll spend weeks working eighteen-hour days just looking at color chips and just be drained at the end of each day. Then we’ll make up prototypes and each one has to be handcrafted and lacquered. And I’m like, Nope, not good enough. Try this. Or try that. Maybe this one. I don’t know. Let me sleep on it. Nope. Still not right. Back to the labs, dudes.

So where are we with the iPhone? In fact we’ve had the actual phone completed for months. And we’ve got all our carrier relationships ironed out. I’ve been using an iPhone since last summer. (White, natch, and just insanely beautiful.) So what’s the hold-up? Well, it’s packaging. Here at Apple we don’t just put something in a box and ship it. We put as much thought, maybe more, into the packaging of the product as we do into the product itself. What we’re looking to achieve is this magical sequence that takes place when you open the box. How does the box open? Is there a tongue? Two side slots? What color is the box? Which grade of cardboard do we use? How does it feel to your fingers? And what about inside? How is the iPhone itself presented to the customer when the box first opens? Does it lie flat? Is it tilted up? Is there plastic over it? Do we put a sticky thing over the screen that you have to peel off? Here, with packaging, we do the same process as with the iPhone itself, with round after round of prototypes, winnowing, meditation, non-thinking, and so forth.

It’s maddening, and I get a huge amount of grief from my staff, especially the salestards who are super pissed right now that we’re not gonna have this iPhone ready for the Christmas — er, holiday — season. But you know what? This is how I do things. This is my process. I can’t be hurried. The work comes at its own pace. Call me a perfectionist. Fair enough. I am. Now will someone please see what happened to the friggin chai latte that I ordered a half hour ago? And make sure it is at exactly 165 degrees? And yes, I mean Fahrenheit, not Celsius. Jesus! Do you realize how hot 165 degrees Celsius would be? It’s like a million degrees Fahrenheit or something. You could burn a hole through my desk with it. And no, not Kelvin, either, you assholes. And hurry up because I’ve got yoga at noon and then Pilates at one and at two we’ve got some dickwads from IBM coming to visit. Good grief.