It is well known that most full touch-screen smartphones on the market today feature a scratch resistant display coating called the 'Gorilla Glass.' Made by a New York based company Corning Glass, the Gorilla Glass allows smartphone makers to feature a large piece of display on the front of their device without the risk of excessive breakdowns or scratches. While this may seem like a easy fix today, back in 2006-2007 when Apple was gearing up for the original iPhone launch, this wasn't that simple.
Steve Jobs biography reveals his interactions with Corning Glass while creating a display for the iPhone that is "strong an resistant to scratches." While the logical place to look for any component is Asia, John Seeley Brown a friend of Steve Jobs, introduced him to Corning CEO Wendell Weeks. This marked the beginning of what went on to change Corning's fortunes and offer manufactures a tough glass not just for smartphones, but tablets, laptops and even TV sets.
In the 1960's Corning developed a chemical exchange process, which lead to the tough glass known as 'Gorilla Glass,' but Corning failed to find a market for the same and had quit making it altogether. Jobs jumped on the opportunity and offered to buyout all the Gorilla Glass that Corning could supply in the next six months, but since none of the plants that Corning operated were manufacturing this glass, the supply was in doubt. Jobs persisted and pushed Weeks to divert resources on the Gorilla Glass and eventually they were able to meet the demand in less than six months.
The first iPhone shipped in 2007 and the rest is history. It resulted in a mini-panic within the smartphone industry. While the entire industry jumped on the full touchscreen smartphone bandwagon, Corning made hay while the sun shined. Almost all smartphone makers looking for a good solution to strengthen their touchscreen ended up using the Gorilla Glass. We have seen the Gorilla Glass finding its way to notebooks and in all probability Apple might be using the same technology in its other product lines like the iPad and the MacBooks as well.
Wendell Weeks is quoted saying "We produced a glass that had never been made." And a prized possession that he has today is the memento framed on display, it is a message from Steve Jobs that reads "We couldn't have done it without you" ... sent on the day when the original iPhone was launched. Corning's website may not mention Apple as a client or the iPhones as a product featuring Gorilla Glass. Rather it features a long list of manufactures using the Gorilla Glass and dozens of products using the same. Apple's role was silent, away from public attention and never advertised. Yes Apple reinvented the Gorilla Glass, just one of the many small things that changed the face of the smartphone industry.
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Annkur P Agarwal is the Founder & Editor of