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Outsiders Can't Define Apple's New Products: Opinion

Stocks in this article: AAPL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Real innovation, done in great secrecy at Apple (AAPL), is a messy business.

There is considerable trial and error. There are dead ends, and there is usually great difficulty creating, in hardware and software, the dream at hand. Especially if the dream is big enough.

And then there are the outside observers who have no clue how hard the process is. One of the difficulties many face when analyzing Apple is a set of misperceptions on how science, engineering and product development work.

How Apple creates products is described by Leander Kahney in his excellent 2013 book: Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products. The chapter on the development of the first iPhone is especially informative, and I recommend it for everyone who follows Apple.

In that chapter, Kahney describes how several iPhone prototypes were built. The first, led by Tony Fadell, was a telephone grafted onto an iPod, and it didn't pan out. Another prototype went through many iterations until the design was just right. Just weeks before final design, Steve Jobs insisted on a glass, not a plastic display. All along the way, there was some yelling in the hallways and the product manager once slammed her office door so hard, it jammed and locked her in.

At his Macworld presentation in January of 2007, introducing the original iPhone, Jobs showed this graphic (below) of how an iPhone should not be designed.

Courtesy of

Little did the community know that there was, in fact, a vaguely similar prototype, according to author Kahney. Innovation is a constant invitation to, and a flirtation with, disaster.

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