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Apple Captured in a Single Email Message

Matthew Panzarino writing at TechCrunch breaks down an email message between Steve Jobs, Bertrand Serlet, Scott Forstall, and others that documents the moment the App Store was born. Here’s the message:

The email captures an important moment in Apple’s history, but as Panzarino explains, it’s also an important lesson in effective leadership:

All in all, this exchange is a wildly important bit of ephemera that underpins the entire app ecosystem era and an explosive growth phase for Internet technology. And it’s also an encapsulation of the kind of environment that has made Apple an effective and brutally efficient company for so many years.

It’s also fascinating to learn how soon after the iPhone’s debut the call was made to let third-party apps onto the platform:

Though there has been plenty of established documentation of Steve being reluctant about allowing third-party apps on iPhone, this email establishes an official timeline for when the decision was not only made but essentially fully formed. And it’s much earlier than the apocryphal discussion about when the call was made. This is just weeks after the first hacky third-party attempts had made their way to iPhone and just under two months since the first iPhone jailbreak toolchain appeared. 

Apple is far larger today than it was in 2007, but it was by no means small then either. The sort of ruthlessly efficient decision-making on display in Serlet and Jobs’ interaction is a lot easier for startups with a handful of employees, which makes it notable for a company of Apple’s size in 2007.