Jobs confirms late June iPhone debut

Steve Jobs pulled an iPhone out of his pocket Wednesday during a staged Q&A at the Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, but quickly tucked it away. His comments about Apple Inc.'s dive into the cell phone market were almost as fleeting, but the company's CEO did offer up some new tidbits to eager buyers.

Early in the conversation with Walt Mossberg, the Journal's personal technology columnist, Jobs confirmed that the iPhone will be available in late June.

"Like the last day of June?" Mossberg asked.

"Uh, yeah ..." Jobs replied.

But will there be enough in the pipeline to satisfy demand?

"I don't know, I hope not," Jobs said.

On another issue that's been the focus of a heated argument (whether the iPhone will be open to third-party developers) Jobs hedged, citing security as the reason why it will be closed -- for now -- but holding out hope to software makers that they will be able to sell ad-on wares.

"This is an important trade-off between security and openness," said Jobs according to an Engadget transcript of the Q&A. "We want both. We're working through a way, we'll find a way to let third parties write apps and still preserve security on the iPhone. But until we find that way, we can't compromise the security of the phone.

"I've used third-party apps. The more you add, the more your phone crashes. No one's perfect, and we'd sure like our phone not to crash once a day. If you can just be a little more patient with us, I think everyone can get what they want."

Jobs also confirmed that the iPhone is powered by Mac OS X, not a miniaturized version or a completely different operating system, as some had theorized earlier this year.

"Take out the data [from Mac OS X], every desktop pattern, sound sample. If you look at Safari, it's not that big. It's real Safari, real OS X," Jobs said. That may explain the controversial decision last month when Apple announced it would delay Mac OS X 10.5, known as Leopard, at least four months to free up enough developers to wrap up the iPhone by June.

But just because the iPhone runs Mac OS X doesn't mean Mac developers should start salivating at the prospect of taking their applications to the new device. "We don't think that's a good idea," Jobs said. "We don't have a mouse, we don't have pull-down menus. We have a very different user interface on the phone."

Some habits, however, never change. Jobs, famous for his "one last thing" moments at Apple get-togethers such as MacWorld, during which he delivers at least one major previously unannounced product or feature, wouldn't take the bait offered by Mossberg.

"Any features on the iPhone that you haven't announced that you would like to share with us here today?" Mossberg asked.

"Uh ... no," Jobs said. "Sorry."

Wall Street reacted to the increased buzz of the iPhone by pushing Apple shares up US$2.66 by 2:45 p.m. EDT to an all-time high of $121.43, an increase of 2.2 percent. Today, Lehman Brothers Inc. raised its price target for Apple, following similar moves Wednesday by other investment firms. In a research note to clients, Lehman analyst Harry Blount cited the iPhone as the reason for the new target. "We believe that the iPhone launch may be a game-changing event for Apple," Blount was quoted as saying in today's issue of the Journal.

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