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Apple at 40: Remembering when Steve Jobs went electric

Michael Simon | April 5, 2016
The iPhone keynote was a highlight of Apple's whole ride.

“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.”

Like Bob Dylan strumming the first few notes of “Maggie’s Farm” on the Stratocaster at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, when Steve Jobs uttered these words at the 2007 Macworld Expo, it was clear that this was no ordinary keynote. What started as a relatively routine presentation—an update on the Intel transition, some stellar sales figures, even a little Windows bashing—quickly became one of his most legendary performances, a rock-star worthy stage show that has been watched and rewatched millions of times.

If it was a record, it would have gone multi-platinum years ago. And whether you were lucky enough to be there or you just watched it later on YouTube, Jobs commanded the stage like he was channeling Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen. It still holds up nearly a decade later.

Anticipation

In other years, the iPhone’s warm-up act might have been the star. Before unveiling the product that would transform Apple into the most profitable company in the world, Jobs took the wraps off of Apple TV. It wasn’t completely new—its existence had been teased at the iPod event just a few months prior—but the Moscone Center stage served the first public appearance for Apple’s streaming box, a novel concept at the time. As Jobs briskly showed off what the Apple TV could do, it became evident that he had something else up his sleeve, but no one in the audience (except maybe Jony Ive) had any idea just how big it was.

Jobs knew he had a Stairway to Heaven-sized hit on his hands, and he was willing to stake his legacy on it.

After the Apple TV demo, Jobs calmly walked over to the table and took a swig of water. Returning to the center of the stage, he looked contemplative, proud as his tone noticeably shifted. He almost seemed nervous as he told the crowd, ”This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years.” It was a line as as memorable as George Harrison’s opening riff to “Day Tripper” at The Beatle’s epic 1966 Candlestick Park concert.

steve jobs phone icon
“Are you getting it?”

Like any great frontman, Jobs played the crowd perfectly. The build-up was just as impressive as the opening, culminating with a catchy refrain that whipped the crowd into a frenzy–“an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator … an iPod, a phone … are you getting it?”—before dropping the line everyone wanted to hear: “And we’re calling it iPhone.”

Zenith

That show-stopping moment wasn’t even the big reveal. As Jobs talked about the problems with smartphones, his hatred of the stylus and the challenges of designing a touchscreen handset, the best reaction came not from the crowd’s first look at the iPhone, but rather a simple gesture that would quickly become commonplace.

 

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