ORLANDO, Fla. – Even the FCC chairman appears to have iPhone fever.
The new cell phone from Apple Inc. (AAPL) made a rare public appearance Tuesday during the keynote session at the CTIA Wireless 2007 trade show. It lasted just moments, but it was easily the highlight of an otherwise uneventful morning.
When AT&T Inc. (T) Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson pulled out the gadget during his speech, the audience snapped to attention and the room lit with camera flashes.
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And while Apple made sure to whisk the closely guarded device away from the convention center right after the speech, another keynote speaker managed to get his eager hands on it backstage beforehand: Kevin Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
"He spent more time with it than I did," Stephenson said in an interview afterward. For a minute, "It seemed like he wouldn't give it back," Stephenson joked.
It was Martin, Stephenson said, who quickly figured out the touch-screen navigation that the AT&T executive demonstrated minutes later during his speech.
The iPhone is expected to go on sale in June and will be offered exclusively by AT&T's Cingular Wireless unit, which is being rebranded under the AT&T name.
Since it was unveiled in early January by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, more than 1 million people have asked AT&T to notify them when the iPhone becomes available, Stephenson said.
He acknowledged that Apple's secretive product development, previously unheard of in an industry where wireless service providers typically wield tremendous sway with device makers, generated some consternation within the company.
"There was some internal rankling, but this was one of those opportunities that you latch a hold of as a carrier," he said.
Tuesday marked only the second time Stephenson had held or seen an iPhone in person.
"I held it one time in a Cingular board meeting," but that unit wasn't operational, he said. "Today was the first time I could navigate it."
Then, as quickly as it began, all the fun and games came to an end — Apple-style.
"A guy in blue jeans" took it away, Stephenson said.