Before he co-founded connected device company Nest, Tony Fadell worked at Apple and lead the teams behind its iPod and its first iPhone devices. Fadell looks back on those days in a newly published interview.
The market was littered with junk. I almost didn’t take the job. We had the General Magic tale. We had the Philips tale. I turned to Steve and said, “We can build anything. Give it enough time and money. But how can you guarantee to me that you can sell and market it? Look at Sony. They own every audio category. How do we go up against that?” He said to me, “Look. You make it, and I guarantee I’ll use every marketing dollar I’ve got. I’ll starve the Mac to do it.” I said, “Okay, you do what you want.” He was really passionate about it.
Of course, that music player turned out to be an iPod and changed both the music and tech industries. Later came the idea for Apple to make a phone. Fadell stated:
It was an iPod with a phone module inside it. It looked like an iPod, but it had a phone, and you would select numbers through the same interface and so on. But if you wanted to dial a number it was like using a rotary dial. It sucked. We knew three months in that it wasn’t going to work. Steve said, “Keep trying!” We tried everything. We tried for seven or eight months to get that thing to work. Couldn’t do it. We added more buttons and it just became this gangly thing.
The final result was the iPhone, which included a touchscreen display that first came about when Apple tried to develop a touchscreen Mac. Fadell said:
We created a touch screen company to build the multi-touch display. Then we needed a better operating system, so we brought a bunch of pieces of the Mac, a bunch of pieces of the iPod, and bolted them together. That was the first version. Then we threw that away and made the second version of the iPhone. That was the one that shipped. It took two and a half to three years, depending on how you count it up, from the time we said we needed to do a phone to the time we actually shipped.