From The Birth Of The iPhone To An Era Of Lawsuits
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. iPhone versus Galaxy, Apple versus Samsung, the companies head back to court next week for another round in their long raging patent battle. Apple has won a number of judgments. In one of them, a jury decided an award of more than a billion dollars was in order. Next week, the stakes could be even higher. NPR's Steve Henn reports that at Apple engineers and executives simply will not let go of the fight.
STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Before today, Greg Christie had never spoken publically about his role designing the software and operating system for the first iPhone.
GREG CHRISTIE: I mean, this was the room we reviewed stuff with Steve.
HENN: We're basically standing at the birthplace of the iPhone and even after a couple of remodels, this is not an impressive spot. It's a tiny little window-less office right next to a bathroom which a decade ago was locked down so tight it got a bit nasty.
CHRISTIE: You know, the cleaning crews weren't allowed in here, right, because there were these sliding white boards along the long wall here and, you know, we wouldn't erase them, they would, you know, be part of the conversation.
HENN: Years later, when Steve Jobs and Greg Christie's other bosses at Apple would talk about this experience of using the iPhone, they'd tend to use language like this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)
STEVE JOBS: It's just all works. It just works.
HENN: The iPhone was pitched as intuitive: so easy to use, a baby could manipulate it. It just made sense. But when Christie was first pulled into this project nearly 10 years ago, he and his team were facing the tyranny of a completely blank screen. None of this existed.
CHRISTIE: The early demos of the phone, they were little, like, sketches and little, like, idea fragments.
HENN: No one had built a phone without buttons before. A touch screen offered software designers complete freedom, but there was no design language they could grab on to. How would you turn this phone on? How would voicemail work? How would you open an app or answer a call?
CHRISTIE: These guys would basically be tasked with, from scratch, redefining a cell phone, a smartphone.
HENN: Greg Joswiak was part of the original marketing team.
GREG JOSWIAK: And there were literally a thousand things these guys would have to invent.
HENN: They came up with multiple solutions for every little problem. They'd try them out, tweek them, start over. It was painful, slow.
JOSWIAK: Steve was growing increasingly frustrated each time we reviewed it with him. He wanted to see a path.
HENN: Steve Jobs wanted a product and so in 2005, he issued an ultimatum. Christie's team was given two weeks to come up with something real or Jobs would find another team of designers for the iPhone. Over the next two weeks, Christie's team worked nonstop, slowly weaving together a vision, a story of how this phone would work.
CHRISTIE: I have no doubt that if I were able to resurrect that demo and show it to you now, you would have no problem recognizing it as an iPhone.
HENN: When Steve Jobs walked into their dingy little window-less room...
CHRISTIE: Yeah, we got it, you know. And that was the reaction from Steve. I mean, he was blown away by that demo.
HENN: Christie says he and his team agonized over all these tiny little details, details which now just work. But he says these details were also the product of work, his work, his team's work and Apple filed for hundreds of patents to protect this stuff. The iPhone went on sale in 2007. By late 2008, Android phones began to hit the market.
In its upcoming law suit with Samsung, Apple claims that that company should have to pay $40 per phone to license Apple's ideas, including little things like the slide-to-unlock screen. This is a claim many patent experts have called ludicrous, pointing out that there are hundreds of thousands of patented technologies that go into every smartphone.
Samsung, for its part, declined to comment for this story, saying only that the company preferred to make its case in court. In court documents, that companies attorneys have argued that some of Apple's ideas are so obvious they shouldn't have been patented at all. And Samsung is also countersuing, saying that Apple stole some of its ideas when that company created the video call system FaceTime.
This case is scheduled to go to court next week. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.