After reading the Wired story "The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry" (written by Fred Vogelstein) - it's always easy to look back and call successful things (in this case a product, but could also be a person or company) overnight successes. And to have a "DUH" moment while thinking "I should have thought of that, it's so simple". But after the fact - and seeing the success - what we fail to see are all the roadblocks, failures, mishaps, wrong turns, bad decisions, that could have stopped this "thing" in its tracks.
The story is about the iPhone (and Steve Jobs) and how they changed an industry. But in my mind, the story does not give enough credit for the success of the iPhone to Stan Sigman (President & CEO of AT&T Wireless, past President of Cingular which AT&T purchased). This guy had to buck established business practices (which were profitable) within the wireless industry. Imagine - a senior executive within a major wireless company - going to his "board" and basically telling them to "just trust me on this". There were no established business rules, no way to verify if this thing would work, nothing but assumptions.
Stan Sigman took on the wireless business - not Steve Jobs. Sure Jobs has the responsibility to design the iPhone (no small task) and make it work. But Stan Sigman had to convince one of the largest companies in the world to take a chance on an unproven technology, an unproven business method, an unproven device manufacturer, an unproven purchasing model, and unproven customer base (sure they purchased iPods at a couple hundred dollars, but would purchase a $500 device and commit to a monthly fee of $100 or more).
So all Stan had to do was convince a bunch of telecom executive (basically old school suits) to do business in a completely different way. I can tell you from experience, phone companies don't change easily - in fact there are people out there right now that are paying outrageous bills for basically rotary dial services (and the phone companies know who they, but won't tell them they could get service much cheaper). These companies have powerful lobbies to protect their interests, they fight tooth-and-nail against anything that could disrupt an existing revenue stream. But somehow, Stan Sigman got their approval. What guts it took - can you imagine what kind of career Stan would have if things had gone the other way. About the only thing left for him would be a paper hat and learning the phrase "would you like fries with that?".
So, for my money, Wired needs to write another article - one that shows how Stan Sigman changed the wireless industry. Although Apple could have become their own "wireless carrier", and the iPhone would have been introduced to the market anyway - but Apple would have to deal with lots of issues they really didn't want to deal with - the partnership with AT&T allowed both companies to win. And it took two leaders - Steve Jobs and Stan Sigman - and hundreds of dedicated, fanatical, believers - to make this thing happen, and of course -- change an industry in the process.