In January 2001, I got my hand on Apple’s PowerBook G4 Titanium body beauty. It had just been announced at the MacWorld San Francisco on January 9th by Steve Jobs. I was an Apple employee then, and being the evangelist for all things Apple in Japan, I was awarded one of the first few units.
Around April of the same year, I happened to drop my bag with the TiBook (as it was called) to the ground. Held in a raw Prada bag without any protection, it hit the concrete and made an awful sound. To my disappointment, the hinge part of the TiBook fell apart. I was just amazed at how weak and fragile this product was. I must have been one of the 1st one to break Steve’s new creation.
In the same year, I attended Japanese VIP’s as Apple staff at the New York MacWorld. Since Steve was there to give the keynote, I ask my boss, Japanese General Manager to make a note of my accident and that product may have flaws.
After meeting with Steve after his NY keynote, my GM came back to tell me what Steve thought of my warning. “How ungrateful is he of my creation” was his comment to me (his Japanese Director who has dropped his TiBook and destroyed his work of art). This was my first introduction to the Cult of Steve.
Apple would never have the all Aluminum unibody today if it ddi not experiment with materials like it did with the TiBook. Inherently flawed and very expensive to make, Apple arrived at the one single sheet of extruded aluminum unibody as a result of this Titanium experience.
Coming from a Japanese consumer business background, what customer shared was important, or I thought so. For Steve and Johnatan Ives, the genius designer behind all great Apple product designs, the challenge was to use new material that no one has used before and produce a commercially successful product. Customer satisfaction came with perfection, not in trying to listen to and please every opinion. Looking back now, I could not agree with them both.
Building a product like and iPhone is a challenge. When you try to use materials like glass and stainless outer frame to be antennas, this is no easy feat. Nokia who has been building handsets for years would have done it if it was possible.
I am deeply saddened by the ongoing attack that has been launched against Apple, who has tried to offer the world a wonderful product, overcoming countless challenges to make the iPhone 4 a reality in it’s current form. Tainted by leaks before launch and now with the antenna issue, we’ve all made Steve say crazy thing out in the open. I can assure you that we all hurt his feelings, and because his feelings were hurt, he came out in the open to explain things even more. Was this a good idea? Not at all, he should have stuck to the perfection angle without mentioning any flaws.
I hope that Apple will continue to innovate and bring new materials to it’s consumer goods even after this expirience. There will be mistakes and issues, but don’t blame Steve for trying, otherwise our world will be overrun by products with similar materials, products that no one can distinguish if it was made by Nokia, Dell or Sony.
Apple’ s tireless quest for perfection does in deed reside with one man and one man only. Without his endless drive, any designer, any engineer may give in to a less than perfect product to satisfy sales and marketing folks who have more short terms sales goal.