Steve Jobs' enthusiasm for WiFi was well-known, but now we also know that he seriously entertained a plan to make the iPhone WiFi-only and rely on premises WiFi and hotspots to give the iPhone its connectivity. By Ian Scales.
That's according to a story that has appeared in Wired's GadgetLab and other outlets, reporting the words of Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Stanton - a Jobs crony - from a Law Seminar International Event in Seattle.
“He and I spent a lot of time talking about whether synthetically you could create a carrier using Wi-Fi spectrum, that was part of his vision,” claims Stanton.
Apparently Jobs was eventually talked out of the WiFi approach and - as we all know - held his nose and went with AT&T, although he was never comfortable with his carrier relationships and periodically looked at the possibility of dropping his partners and competing with them through MVNOs (a route which seemed just as Jobs-like as WiFi and more likely to have been successful).
In the event, the iPod touch WAS the WiPhone although without a built-in VoIP capability.
One thing is certain. Mobile and computing history would have been very different had he followed through on the WiFi scheme, although it's hard to imagine the WiFi-only option making the iPhone any more popular and profitable for Apple than it has been via the carriers.
Probably (just interesting speculation) Google would have seized the opportunity and done its Android OS with even more alacrity - then Apple would have followed suit (elaborate your own counterfactuals in the comments box below).
That Jobs was just a tad, er, anti-carrier was fairly well-known too, and over the years various conversational fragments have leaked out - all involving Jobs railing colourfully about telcos' collective shortcomings. This is hardly surprising since Jobs seems to have railed colourfully about any individual, company or category of organisation which looked likely to thwart his ambitions (think Adobe).
Incumbent carriers probably got special treatment since they represented - in IT terms - 'the man' (hat tip to Jack Black) especially in Apple's formative years in the late 1970s and early 1980s when it was difficult to get even a modem approved for connection to the network without about a year's approval process.
More recently, of course, the iPad has been heavily WiFi-centric and the first WiFi-only Android phones have arrived. Maybe Jobs would have got there in the end.
Photo by Acaben, via Wikimedia Commons
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