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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Tony Fadell, known as the godfather of the iPod for his role in its design, recently sat down Appvance CEO Kevin Surace at the SV Forum Visionary Salon Dinner to reminisce about Steve Jobs and his time at Apple. VentureBeat attended the event and has shared a transcript of the discussion.

Fadell has discussed his role at Apple and his relationship with Jobs many times over the years, but new details, additional color, and lesser-known tidbits tend to surface with each new interview, making them worth a read. This most recent interview covers an interesting look at the decision to bring iTunes to the PC.

Image via VentureBeat​

Jobs was initially against introducing PC support for the iPod because he viewed the device as a way to attract people to the Mac. Fadell had a team of people working on porting iTunes to PC to give people who didn't own a Mac a taste of Apple products. Fadell describes his effort to get iTunes on the PC as a "knock down, drag out battle."

After being pressured by much of the iPod team to get iTunes to the biggest market, Jobs relented, but he insisted that journalist Walt Mossberg, who wrote for The Wall Street Journal at the time, sign off on the design.
He [Steve] finally said, "Okay. But under one condition. We're going to build these and run it by Mossberg. And if Mossberg says it's good enough to ship, then we'll ship it." He wanted to divorce himself from having to make the decision. But Walt said, "Not bad. I'd ship it." That's how we actually shipped on the PC.
Following iTunes' PC launch, Fadell says Mac sales accelerated. The iPod and iTunes were good on the PC, "but great on a Mac," enticing people to switch to Apple's platform.

Another anecdote in the interview covers Apple's early exploration of a phone. Fadell and his team began conceptualizing an "iPod phone" that was an iPod with a phone module inside it. It was designed like an iPod with a click wheel for dialing, an idea that didn't work.
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.
A rendering of a prototype iPod/iPhone hybrid with a click wheel, based on information from a source familiar with Apple's designs at the time.

At the same time as the iPod phone was in development, Apple was also exploring the idea of a touchscreen Mac, leading to the idea of a virtual interface on a phone.
Steve's like, "Come over here!" I didn't know about this at the time, but he showed me a ping-pong table that was the first multi-touch screen. It was a ping-pong-sized table. It had a projector of a Mac on top of it, and you could interact with it. He said, "We're going to put that in an iPod!" "Steve, it's the size of a ping-pong table!"
Apple then began work on a multi-touch display and software that brought together elements from the Mac and the iPod, eventually leading to the development of the device that became the original iPhone.

The full transcript of Fadell's interview, which includes additional details on his early career, Nest, and Apple, can be read over at VentureBeat.

Article Link: Steve Jobs Refused to Bring iPod & iTunes to PC Without Walt Mossberg's Blessing


Sep 4, 2009
Really surprised this story came out. What is next? The story about the recruitment of the original iPhone team.


macrumors 68040
Jan 5, 2012
When you hear tidbits like the multi-touch pingpong table which lead to iPhone, it feels like the iPhone was a one-in-a-generation new product category.

The Apple Watch clearly isn't the same, but then it doesn't need to be. (Like the original iPod didn't need to be as "big" as the Mac.)

I'd love to hear more anecdotes about the development of the Watch: The conversations that must have been had where they questioned whether it would live up to previous products; The weight of the first post-Jobs product, etc. I guess we won't hear much until Tim Cook retires.


macrumors 65816
Jun 24, 2010
Can honestly say I'm glad the iPod Phone with a click wheel never came to fruition, sounds like a total disaster.
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macrumors 65816
Mar 24, 2010
I love reading stories like this. The lead up to the original iPhone is probably one of the most interesting stories of tech that has happened. Started out as giant table-sized multitouch device, then a large iPad-sized device, then a phone.

I hope we keep getting stories like this for years to come. The mystery of it is still awesome. :)


Jul 11, 2006
Can honestly say I'm glad the iPod Phone with a click wheel never came to fruition, sounds like a total disaster.
In retrospect it does sound like a bad idea, but I remember being excited about the idea when I first heard those rumors. I think given the state of other phones at the time it would have been an average phone, but certainly wouldn't have made smartphones as common as they are today.
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macrumors 604
Mar 3, 2010
I can easily daydream thinking to be in the same rooms and try to feel some of the excitement pouring around.
I find it a little more difficult to imagine the same in Apple nowadays.

P.S. It's only a feeling of mine, not a judgement

As long as I am not in the same room when the project manager has to tell him that the schedule has to be pushed back because reality settled in...
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macrumors 601
Oct 1, 2010
Not surprised at all, I know that iPhone and iPods were what got me looking at the Mac books when I was in an apple store. And once I found out I could run any OS it was an easy sell since the Macs are better machines.


macrumors 68040
Nov 10, 2007
Out of the Reach of the FBI
Not surprised at all, I know that iPhone and iPods were what got me looking at the Mac books when I was in an apple store. And once I found out I could run any OS it was an easy sell since the Macs are better machines.

Sort of the same as my experience. I had an iPod first, then started kicking the tires on a Mac because of that experience.

But the absurd idea of the click wheel iPhone always brings this to mind:


macrumors 68030
Jul 11, 2009
This is a perfect example of "editing," one of Apple's core principles. Given the huge success of the iPod, the allure of generating relatively immediate additional sales by shoehorning in phone functionality must have been huge. Nearly any other company would have taken the bait, even if it were obvious that the solution was imperfect. Apple took the time and made the effort to find the right approach instead, and changed the world.


macrumors 6502
Aug 11, 2011
Kennesaw, GA
Interesting. The iPod was my gateway to Apple products. First the iPod, then the iPhone and a few years later a Mac mini. Now the only Windows machines in the house are my wife's work computer and my old laptop running Vista that I only keep because I about 2-3 times a year I need to use a Windows-based program for school.
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