Jobs sheds new light on Apple iPhone at D conference

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Apple Inc.'s iconic leader was cautious but still insightful during an interview at the Wall Street Journal event, explaining how the company is tackling Internet access, video, and the sensitive question of third-party software for the iPhone.

Beyond his introduction of new Apple TV features, CEO Steve Jobs also spoke out during the question-and-answer session with Walt Mossberg, justifying the reasoning behind much of the iPhone's inner workings.

The company head defended a handful of the controversial decisions made that could limit the cellphone's initial appeal, particularly software. For Jobs, the question of third-party software was now a question of "when" rather than "if:" the main issues now were to protect the phone against crashes and security holes, which he said have frequently ruined the experience for smartphones in the past. Pressure on the firm to change its current, closed-off approach was evident in Jobs' reactionary tone.

"We would like to solve this problem," he said. "And if you could just be a little more patient with us, we’ll do it."

One feature that was dismissed immediately, however, was direct video downloading through the cellular network. In the present climate, buying videos through provider networks 'doesn't make sense' and is too expensive to be viable, according to the CEO. Video is nevertheless important to the company's strategy and prompted Jobs to make a relatively rare confession to the audience that his early skepticism about video on handhelds was unfounded.

"People have watched a lot of video on iPods,” he notes. “Video is here to stay on portable devices."

Jobs was also quick to back the choice to ship the first iPhone as a strictly 2.5G wireless device rather than move directly to 3G. The use of cellular Internet is more a convenience than a necessity, he argued, noting that Wi-Fi was "way faster" than 3G and that the iPhone would alert its user when they stepped within range of a hotspot. Growth of Wi-Fi also meant that coverage would be enough for most users.

Still, he acknowledged that one of the motivations for AT&T to choose the iPhone was to help bolster the carrier's 3G network. Most don't have mainstream devices that offer any more than a "baby Internet," Jobs noted, and the iPhone would help drive business.

In spite of the newly added clarity to the company's stance on the iPhone, attendees expecting a surprise announcement a month ahead of the release were frustrated early during the interview. Jobs teased the crowd when asked by Mossberg whether the assembly would learn of any secret features at the event.

"No," Jobs said, smiling.


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