With 5.2 million iPhones sold in Apple’s last quarter – and that period including partial international roll-out of the iPhone 3GS – we thought it might be worth noting this weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the announcement of a previous and now forgotten phone, the ROKR with iTunes.

Yes, dear reader, it was five years ago this weekend (July 26, to be exact) when Motorola and Apple shocked the world (well, impacted it a little tiny bit) with news the two firms planned to introduce a “next-generation” iTunes-capable mobile phone.

“We can’t think of a more natural partnership than this one with Apple, the brand synonymous with easy-to-use, legal music downloading, and Motorola, the innovator in mobile technology,” said an enthusiastic Ed Zander, Chairman and CEO, Motorola. “Being able to transfer songs you’ve purchased from iTunes to Motorola mobile handsets expands the market reach for both of us and drives new revenue for customers, delivering an amazing music experience to millions of wireless users.”
 

We wonder if he spent a lot of time with Palm’s new boss, former Apple man, Jon Rubinstein, who clearly thinks the same thing about the Palm Pre.

And what a wicked web is woven: even while Apple was quietly developing prototype Apple phones … (we once heard tell of an earlier Apple phone that rumour claims was close to launch two years before the introduction of the original iPhone, before it was pulled – though this information could be completely apocryphal/false/rumour/speculation, OK?).

Despite activity (and whether that apocryphal story of the device Apple may even have been proud not to release is true or not, there’s no way the iPhone happened in a trice) in the Apple r&d labs, Apple boss Steve Jobs waxed lyrical on his motions with Motorola.

“We are thrilled to be working with Motorola to enable millions of music lovers to transfer any of their favorite songs from iTunes on their PC or Mac to Motorola’s next-generation mobile phones,” he said.

Jobs was clearly thinking, reaching for the next apple in the tree, “The mobile phone market – with 1.5 billion subscribers expected worldwide by the end of 2004 – is a phenomenal opportunity to get iTunes in the hands of even more music lovers around the world and we think Motorola is the ideal partner to kick this off.”

“Ideal partner”? Well, as we all know – and there’s no sense investing the time in an in-depth story – the ROKR came out in September 2005, didn’t do well, and was quietly disappeared. The device’s 100 (count them) song capacity was, erm, somewhat limited. And it looked rubbish.

Fast forward to now and with the subsequent release of the iPhone, poor old former PowerPC partner Motorola is the mobile maker shedding the most market share as customers switch to iPhone (and we don’t believe that’s just ROKR iTunes owners upgrading to something cooler).

So, raise a glass and shed a little tiny tear this Sunday as you remember the birth of Apple’s public ambitions on the mobile phone market (which it already had, by the way, in a big way, really, ask Fake Steve, real Steve just won’t say).

And perhaps you should raise a glass too to Jonathan Ive, who hated his mobile phones so much he was just itching to “reinvent the category”. He did OK, didn’t he?

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