updated 02:30 am EST, Thu February 2, 2012
Talk to students emphasizes innovation
Former iPhone product marketing engineer Bob Borchers, best known for his appearances some of the iLife and iPhone "guided tour" videos, recently gave a talk to students at a California school that touched on his time at Apple, particularly covering the introduction of the iPhone, and what he is doing now having left the company. His talk, captured in two YouTube videos by an audience member, focused on how Apple innovates in hopes of fostering creative thinking in his young audience.
The iPhone, Borchers said, was the product of Steve Jobs telling the engineering teams simply that they had to create "the first phone people would fall in love with." The product had to be a revolutionary mobile phone, the best iPod thus far, and let users carry "the internet in their pocket," the latter being a particularly unusual idea at the time, he said. Later in the talk, he described the role of the product marketing team as being akin to "conductors of an orchestra," helping decide what should be in (or left out) of the iPhone and coordinating the many differently-talented teams to get the goals accomplished.
Borchers reiterated the key concepts that Apple has so successfully used to foster innovation to the students: do a few things exceptionally well, break the rules, pay attention to details and make people think "differently" about their relationship with the device, particularly if it was a device that already existed on the market (such as MP3 players or tablets). Borchers pointed out that many of the things people love about the iPhone today -- in particular the apps, but also the video and photography capabilities, the GPS and now the voice interaction -- were not part of the original mandate. In creating a product that revolutionized the industry (and broke many rules, Borchers emphasized, particularly in how phones were sold), they had naturally created a platform that could continue to surprise and delight customers.
He particularly dwelt on Apple's famous attention to detail, partially recounting a recently-circulated story about how the original iPhone was intended to have a plastic touchscreen to protect the LCD. Late in the production process and shortly before its debut, Jobs showed the engineers that the plastic, while protective, would scratch when people kept it in their pocket with keys and other items, forcing the team to scramble and convince Corning to start up production on its then-abandoned Gorilla Glass, which ended up being a better option for both companies.
Borchers mentioned the company's well-known obsession with product packaging, saying that Apple spends "way too much time on" its product presentation but that it effectively communicates to consumers that the product inside is special, that it is something Apple is proud of and that it is valuable. He showed a couple of early iPhone ads, pointing out that the time in them is always set for 9:42 a.m., the moment the iPhone was originally launched. In another commercial for the original iPhone, Borchers pointed out that the phone number used to demonstrate the Google Map function was genuine and the actual number of the restaurant mentioned ("any other company ... would have used a fictitious number" he added), and that the last time he was at Pacific Catch in San Francisco, they "still had the iPhone special, which is calamari."
Since leaving Apple after the launch of the iPhone 4, Borchers has become a venture capitalist with Opus Capital, saying that Apple and the iPhone had gotten "so big" and that his passion was more for helping others get their own products off the ground, so he left to "get small again." The YouTube videos are posted below.