The contested decisions of Steve Jobs at Apple: tongues are loosened…

After Jony Ive, it’s Tony Fadell who talks about Steve Jobs in a book he wrote himself. The father of the iPod and founder of Nest talks about Steve Jobs’ few contested decisions in the days of the iPod and the first iPhone.

First iPhone // Source: Mathieu Improvisé

It’s the season of indiscretions. This week a highly anticipated book came out, After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul. We were thus able to discover the reasons which led Jony Ive, the legendary chief designer of Apple, to leave his company.

Another book was also very interesting, it is the book To build (25 euros on Amazon) which tells the story of the 30 years of work of Tony Fadell (the father of the iPod) in companies in Silicon Valley (he is also the founder of Nest, acquired by Google). But what is of interest here is the interview with CNBC reporter Jon Fortt, who had the chance to chat with Tony Fadell.

+@tfadellNest @madebygoogle Founder & #TO BUILD Author: A Fortt Knox Conversation https://t.co/46WhuMgVO4

— Jon Fortt (@jonfortt) May 4, 2022

The iPod for macophiles only

Tony Fadell was recruited in 2001 by Apple, his mission was to help the company develop its musical strategy. This was just before the announcement of iPod and iTunes, when the first MP3 players hit the market. Apple wanted to bring its vision to this market with an easy-to-use device, good battery life, fast data synchronization and the ability to store 1000 songs.

The contested decisions of Steve Jobs at Apple: tongues are loosened…
One of the iPod versions // Source: Jeremy Bezanger

First decision that has been much talked about: the use of the FireWire standard instead of USB on the iPod. The reason was simple: the USB standard at the time only supported 12 Mbps of data transfer speed compared to 1000 Mbps at the time. For comparison, USB 4 currently supports speeds of up to 40 Gbps.

Unfortunately, the first two generations of iPods were only compatible with Macs. For Windows users, it was absolutely necessary to go through a Mac to transfer songs to an iPod. Tony Fadell opposed this idea, “We need to make sure it works with Windows», «never in my lifetimereplied Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs wanted the iPod to be a reason to switch to the Mac… Tony Fadell even contacted the famous journalist Walt Mossberg, a friend of Steve Jobs, to try to convince the founder of Apple. It took a few years to see iTunes land on Windows and iPod support.

Opening the iPhone to Third-Party Apps

The other disputed decision of Steve Jobs, mentioned by Tony Fadell in the interview, is the opening of the iPhone to third-party applications. The first iPhone didn’t have an App Store, that first mount of iPhone OS came with preloaded apps… and that’s it. However, at the time, Windows Mobile or Symbian already allowed the installation of third-party apps.

For its first versions of the iPhone OS, Apple had instead chosen to develop web applications that ran via Safari. It was Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google and member of the board of directors of Apple, who pushed this idea… he mainly wanted to allow Google to take advantage of the ecosystem of the iPhone. The iPhone was already sold with Google as the default search engine, it also had Google Maps and YouTube preloaded.

The contested decisions of Steve Jobs at Apple: tongues are loosened…
App Store // Source: James Yarema on Unsplash

Finally, after the launch of the first two iPhones whose success was relative, Steve Jobs saw in the App Store a way to lock people into the ecosystem. This App Store was also a factor in the success of the iPhone that we know today.


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