Scott Forstall Encouraged Pandora to Begin Developing for iPhone Via Jailbreaking in 2007

Tyler Hayes, in an interesting story for Motherboard about Pandora:

After Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in 2007 it became apparent that this new internet connected, “music player,” device in people’s pockets needed to be the future of its mobile efforts.

After pushback on only allowing web apps for the iPhone, Steve Jobs announced that native apps would be coming to the iPhone. In the interim, Apple Senior Vice President Scott Forstall invited Tim Westergren and his CTO, Tom Conrad, over to a local Cupertino lunch spot. The trio talked for hours about what Pandora had learned about streaming audio from putting apps on flip phones, like Motorola’s RAZR, for wireless carriers. The meeting ended with a question for Forstall.

“What, if anything, can we do at Pandora to get ready for the next generation of iPhone that includes an app store and native APIs?” asked Conrad. “Forstall said, it wouldn’t be a waste of your time to jailbreak some iPhones and use the kind of back door toolkits that were being distributed by other people to build a native Pandora app while we get our act together at Apple on something more formal.”

So, Conrad, designer Dan Lythcott-Haines, and many others on the team got to work jailbreaking iPhones and working on a Pandora iPhone app ahead of the official APK release. Then, on day one of the App Store launch, Pandora was the first internet radio app available. Nine months later the Pandora app was installed on 21 percent of iPhones.

Steve Jobs announced Apple’s plans for a third-party SDK on 17 October 2007 (“no permalink that I can find, alas”), and the SDK and App Store were unveiled by Jobs at a Town Hall event on 6 March 2008. That probably pegs this Forstall-Pandora meeting at the end of 2007, perhaps just after the SDK announcement in October. (Update 1: Here’s a link to Jobs’s “Hot News” announcement post at Internet Archive: “We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.”)

A few of the apps available on day one of the App Store began life in the jailbreak-or-bust era of 2007, including Twitterrific and Lights Out — a polished game by Lucas Newman that he was already demoing in early August 2007. Pandora and Twitterrific are still going, of course, and Steven Troughton-Smith’s Lights Off is a made-with-permission recreation of Lights Out that’s been in the App Store since 2008.

Update 2: Craig Hockenberry posted Newman’s original Lights Off source code three years ago, in this 10-year remembrance.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021