Former Apple CEO John Sculley has been speaking about how he saw the potential for what would become the iPhone many years ago, and how his investment in the team that developed the Newton lead Apple to invest in a company that went on to make the ARM processor that is now used in “almost every mobile device in the world”.
Scully talked at a SFTA event about how sometimes the small projects from years ago turn out to be the basis of the future.
Sculley describes a keynote he delivered in 1993 at CES. “I made a prediction that in the future there would be a multibillion dollar industry around devices that would combine with telephone and the personal computer capability, but it would have new kinds of user experiences, like gestures and things of this sort,” he tells the crowd. At the time, he admits, he was talking about Newton, but it’s clear as the presentation goes on, that Sculley is laying some claim to the seed of the idea that spawned the iPhone.
Regarding his premonition in 1993, Sculley said: “I was ridiculed by every major publication, including the Wall Street Journal: ‘What is this marketing guy trying to tell us where technology is going’, they said.” He explains that he had suggested that where, at the time, personal computers were being sold in the hundreds of millions, “these mobile devices are going to be sold in the billions.” The reaction was that: “This was a completely absurd idea.”
Sculley goes on to talk about the Newton and the ARM processor. The Newton was: “A project that was trying to design a new kind of device,” he explained. Going on to claim that: “Handwriting was never intended to be an important aspect of it. It was more about the fact that you can hold this thing in your hand and it could do a lot of the graphics that you could see on the Macintosh.”
The team behind the Newton hit an issue, Sculley explained. “No microprocessor existed that would enable you to do graphics based software in a mobile device that ran on a battery. “Larry Tesler came to me with a project idea that he had: that Apple ought to go design a microprocessor.”
As a result a company called Advanced RISC Machines (ARM) was founded. It was a joint venture between Acorn Computers, Apple Computer and VLSI Technology. Apple owned 47% of this venture.
“This processer that they designed is called the ARM. And the ARM processor in now in almost every mobile device in the world. From the iPhone which uses a derivative of the ARM core [in the A6 chip], to every other Smartphone that’s out there today,” said Sculley.
Sculley goes on to note the reason he left Apple: “I was pushed out of Apple in 1993 because I refused to license the Mac Operating system. Every time we ran a business model on it, it showed that unless we get 25% market share it wouldn’t work, we’d lose money… Some years later Apple went on to license its software and it didn’t work financially.”
Then, “When people were speculating whether Apple would go bankrupt, Gil Amelio did two things: He sold Apple’s 47% share of ARM for US$800 million, but kept the doors open at Apple. And he bought NEXT and bought Steve back to Apple. Without that Apple would have been history.”
You can listen to the whole interview over at The Next Web.