The iPhone and the Mac

The New York Times sees parallels between the iPhone and the original Macintosh.

When the Macintosh computer — which was also designed by a small group shrouded in secrecy — was introduced in January 1984, it was received with the same kind of wild hyperbole that greeted the iPhone this week. But a year later, the shortcomings of the first-generation Macintosh cost Mr. Jobs his job at the company he founded nine years earlier with a high school friend, Stephen Wozniak.

In light of the iPhone’s closed appliance-style design, it is worth recounting the Mac’s early history because of the potential parallel pitfalls that Mr. Jobs and his company may face.

Despite its high price of $2,495, the Macintosh initially sold briskly. But Mr. Jobs’s early predictions of huge sales failed to materialize. (On Tuesday, in a similar fashion, he set an iPhone goal of 1 percent of the world’s cellular phone market by the end of 2008.)

The Mac’s stumble was in part because of pricing and in part because Mr. Jobs had intentionally restricted its expandability. Despite his assertion that a slow data connection would be enough, the gamble failed when Apple’s business stalled and Mr. Jobs was forced out of the company by the chief executive he had brought in, John Sculley.

In a similar fashion, Mr. Jobs is gambling that people will pay a premium ($499 or $599) for the iPhone and he appears to have sought to limit its expandability.

The device is not currently compatible with the faster 3G wireless data networks that are driving cellular revenues to sharp gains in the United States (although several Apple insiders said the phone could be upgraded to 3G with software if Apple later decides to enable that feature).

Moreover, Mr. Jobs also appears to be restricting the potential for third-party software developers to write applications for the new handset, like ring tones and word processors…