Apple’s iPhone Basement Tapes Revealed

Warning: This article contains adult language and is intended for mature audiences only. Reader discretion advised.

The following are excerpted transcripts, taken from recordings serendipitously discovered on the floor at a bar in Berkeley. The recordings appear to consist of three conversations between two individuals somewhere at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, spanning a time period from late 2006 to late 2009.

Time: Late 2006

Steve: Phil, I’m actually nervous. Hard to believe. We’re just weeks away from the iPhone keynote. I’ll finally be able to take this thing out of my pants and show it off in public. I can hardly wait.

Phil: You might want to rephrase how you say that next time.

Steve: I know. I was just kidding. Speaking of kidding…can you believe those wimps at Cingular? They let us get away with dictating virtually every detail of our deal — and they still haven’t even seen the damn device. Stan…the CEO…called the other day to ask again when he could get finally get a peek at an iPhone. It’s like he was practically begging. I told him he’d have to wait until the Macworld keynote, just like everyone else. Jonnie was in my office at the time, listening in. We were practically peeing in our pants.

Stan didn’t say a word. Like for thirty seconds…nothing. He was probably too busy taking his blood pressure medication. Finally, I told him I was joking.

Phil: Hilarious, Steve. You know…one day you’re gonna push them too far.

Steve: Nah. They’ll just bend over and keep taking it. What else can they do? In fact…can we really keep the iPhone out of Cingular’s hands until Macworld? Seriously, if we can, let’s do it. Show them who’s in charge — in case there’s still any doubt.

Phil: I’d have to check the contract. But I’m thinking it’s not a great idea.

Steve: No, it’ll be cool. Get back to me on it.

You know what my real gripe is with Cingular or AT&T or whoever they are today? We’re placing the success of this entire iPhone project in the hands of people whose idea of an effective phone network is two tin cans and some string. I mean…have you ever tried to make a call with one of their phones? I’ve had better luck with the slots at Vegas.

If they don’t get their act together, Doonesbury will be lampooning the iPhone in a few weeks. It’ll be the Newton nightmare all over again. No way I’m gonna let that happen. I’ll lock Trudeau up in a closet first.

Phil: Yup. AT&T keeps telling us how they’ll be upgrading their hardware any day now. Sometimes I think they half-hope the iPhone will fail, just so they don’t get overwhelmed by the traffic.

Anyway, we still have that other thing to talk about. You know…whether or not we’ll allow third-party apps on the iPhone.

Steve: Jesus. That again? I told you. No way. I mean..the apps that ship with the iPhone already give people more than any other piece-of-crap so-called smartphone. A true Web browser, a Maps app that blows away the competition, visual voicemail and a better iPod than anything else we’ve ever done. What the fuck more do people want?

Phil: I dunno. But the developers who’ve had a sneak peak at the phone keep saying how there are all these things they’d like to do — if we just give them the chance.

Steve: Bullshit. You know the first thing we’ll see if we open up that door? An app that farts. Probably with a video of a woman undressing while she’s farting. Do we really want that on the iPhone? Do you want Apple to go down in history as the company that offered the first mobile pornographic fart machine? No fuckin’ way.

If they really have something worthwhile, let them make it a Web app. That’s as far as we go.

Look Phil. This is our big chance. A once-in-a-lifetime gift. We have an opportunity to start from scratch here — with a platform and OS that are completely under our control. If we kept the iPhone any more tightly shut, users would have to email us to get permission to turn the goddamned thing on and off. We could have never pulled off this shit on a Mac. But we can do it on the iPhone. And I’m not giving it all up just because a few developers are whining.

Phil: Okay. Fine. It’s settled. No third-party apps on the iPhone. (Pauses; apparently to look over notes.) I guess that’s it for today.

Steve: Great. So I’m off to rehearse the Expo keynote again. Your know…I’m just about ready to pull out of Macworld Expo. Who needs them? We can do our own “special events,” at any time we choose, and limit them to just our preferred press with no public at all. The same bang…for far less bucks.

Phil: I’ll put it on our “to do” list. Maybe next year. Although I’m sure this won’t go over well with our end user base. And it may well mean the end of the Expo.

Steve: The users will live. Most of them have never been to an Expo anyway. And if the Expo dies, there’s an Apple Store over at Stockton. Let people go there instead.

Time: Late 2007

Phil: Look Steve, you’ve been putting this off for weeks. We’ve really got to talk about it.

Steve: No Phil. No, we don’t. If you even say “App Store,” I’ll shove this iPhone so far up your ass, you’ll be able to use your face as a keypad. Hell, I’m going get a damn EEG machine. It better not detect that you’re even thinking “App Store.”

I’ve been saying this for over a year now. I not going to let outside developers contaminate the iPhone. It’s like spending 100 grand on new landscaping and then inviting every dog in a 5 mile radius to come a take a shit on it. No way.

Phil: But they’re already shitting on your lawn, Steve. It’s called “jailbreaking.” And it’s getting more popular every day. Not only does jailbreaking allow users to put third-party apps on their phone…but they get root access to the OS to boot. It’s threatening to turn the iPhone into…into…into a Mac. Exactly what you said you would never allow.

Steve: Fuck. Has jailbreaking really gotten that bad already? Then let’s put a stop to it. Now! I want to stomp on the heads of the pimply nerds responsible for it. (Shifting voice to channel Al Capone from The Untouchables) “I want them DEAD! I want their families DEAD! I want their houses burned to the ground! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna piss on their ashes!”

For crying out loud, Phil. We have the best engineers on the planet working for us. We have more resumes on file than the entire population of Europe. What are we paying these guys for if they can’t figure out a way to outsmart a few teenagers?

Phil: They’re working on it. Trust me. Jailbreaking’s gonna become a lot harder to do. But I’m not convinced we’ll ever wipe it out completely. No matter how small we make the hole, these guys will figure out some way to squeeze through it. That’s why I’m pushing for the App Store. It gets us back on the offensive. Give users officially-supported third-party apps and most of them will gladly reject the risks of jailbreaking.

Steve: (long sigh) Okay. I give up. So tell me again…how is this App Store business going to work?

Phil: A lot better than you may think. We’ll have complete control over which apps make it to the App Store. Every app will need to get approved by us. If we reject it, that app is history. We don’t have to explain why we rejected an app. We don’t have to offer any guidance as to how an app might be revised to get approved. Basically, we’re in a ball game where the other side has forfeited before they even step to the plate.

Plus, we get a 30% take on every sale. I’m telling you Steve, this is gonna be huge. If we get even half as many apps as marketing predicts, we’ll crush Blackberry and every other smartphone out there.

Steve: All right. Let’s do it. But make sure I see the developer license agreement before we give it the final go-ahead. I want to be absolutely certain it’s as airtight as you’re saying. I mean…if I don’t like the background color an app is using, I want to be able to trash it.

Phil: You got it.

Time: Late 2009

Steve: OK. I was wrong. I admit it. The App Store has worked out far better than I ever imagined. Whenever anyone asks me, I now say it was all part of our grand plan right from the beginning.

Phil: Yup. It’s all just about perfect.

Steve: Except I still have a bug up my ass about the negative press we get every time we reject some oddball app. Are these people nuts? Did they really think we’d accept apps that use private APIs or otherwise loosen our grip on the OS?

Phil: Not to mention the 5000 apps that weren’t much more than photos of women in various stages of undress.

Steve: Don’t get me started on that. I’m sooo glad we dumped those porn apps. Next thing you know, people would have expected us to have a booth at the Adult Entertainment Expo.

At least, there’s a counterpunch every time we take a hit on this stuff. And we don’t even have to lift a finger to do it. We get all those comments from users defending us, thanking us for our prudent oversight of the iPhone…pointing out that it’s our App Store and we should be able to do whatever the fuck we want with it…citing how many people are happily downloading the 150,000 apps in the Store. I’d swear they are reading my mind. Absolutely great.

But I got to admit…it’s also a bit funny. It’s like convicts thanking their jailers for making sure they don’t overeat. But what do I care? It’s working.

Phil: I agree. Although I still worry about the complaints from developers. The ones that claim we have no consistency in our approval process or that our rules are too vague for them to figure out. I worry that the complaints will start gaining traction with the public. Or that the developers may start moving somewhere else, like to Android.

Steve: Hell. Let ‘em move. See how happy they’ll be making no money for a phone that no one’s buying.

Phil: Okay. Anyway, there’s another item I want to go over with you: the iWork apps for the iPad. I’m still trying to figure out how they fit with our current positioning of the iPad. With the way we keep the iPhone OS locked up, there’s no way these apps can work effectively. They can barely file share; it’s even worse now that you decided to scrap the Shared folder feature and go instead with the kludge of exporting through iTunes. And printing is next to impossible.

Maybe we should hold off on these apps until iPhone OS 5 — when we’re ready to position the iPad as more of a laptop alternative.

Steve: Phil, we’re never going to market the iPad as a laptop. At least not as long as MacBooks are selling well at over a thousand bucks a pop. The iWork apps are just there as a tease. Shit, I can’t write a decent thank you note with Pages. I agree that getting any real work done is impossible. But so what? People will buy the apps anyway and be impressed by the eye candy. And some bloggers will prattle on about how they were able to use their iPad to write a novel while on vacation. In the end, these apps will help sell more iPads.

Phil: I don’t know Steve. This doesn’t sound like you. I mean you’re always on about how the interface has to be just so. And now you’re going with something you almost admit is crap. What’s the deal?

Steve: It’s a necessary compromise. If we’re too flexible with what these apps can do, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. Before you know it, developers will have burrowed their way into the OS and figured out how to get around all our restrictions. I’ll end-of-life the iPhone before I let that happen.

Phil: OK. One more thing. The business about blocking Flash-based compiled apps in iPhone OS 4. The clause is in the agreement, like you wanted. The shit’s sure gonna hit the fan on that one. I can hardly wait. (Makes a small chuckle.)

Steve: Damn straight. Those Adobe assholes are dead wrong if they think I’ll let them turn the iPhone into something that would make Windows Mobile look like a gift from the gods. (Gets up from chair, apparently to leave.)

Now let’s just see if we can go a few months without some stupid controversy over a rejected app. I mean…it’s not like we’re going to reject an app from Pulitzer prize winner or something.