Apple is shelling out $250 million for further development of glass technology at Corning’s factory in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, according to Brett Larson’s exclusive Fox interview with Apple COO Jeff Williams.
Though he won’t directly say exactly what they plan on developing, he said the money will go towards research and development, new technologies, new innovations as well as retrofitting some advanced glass production in Corning.
“Last week, we had a big announcement and we announced two new phones, and they, of course, feature Corning glass and are the toughest glass in any smartphone, and it’s developed right here in Kentucky,” Williams said. “It’s amazing, in the middle of horse country, you have … a range of people from skilled trades to scientists, right in the middle of this small town, making the best glass in the world. And we know that because we test it all.”
Williams recalled the origin of Apple’s relationship with Corning and it can all be tied back to Apple founder Steve Jobs holding up that very first iPhone.
“We’d only made three or four at the time, and the front was hard coated plastic, and the world was excited about it,” Williams said. “And I got a phone call the next day, and Steve had been carrying around the phone in his pocket and he said ‘Hey, it’s got this big scratch on it …’ And he said ‘We really should change the glass.'”
Steve Jobs talks during a presentation in 1997.
Williams agreed with Jobs, but he admitted the technology to put glass on the front of the phone was about three or four years away.
“He goes, ‘No, no, no, you don’t understand, when it ships in June, it needs to be glass because this is our big, beautiful screen that can’t have scratches on it,'” Williams recounted.
He admitted they didn’t know what to do. And it wasn’t until two days later when Corning CEO Wendell Weeks called that they had a possible answer to Jobs’ frustrating experience.
“He calls me and said, ‘Hey, your boss called and said my glass sucks,'” Williams laughed. “He had an idea.”
“Corning had this recipe they had developed a glass over a decade ago that had been sitting on the R&D shelf, really didn’t have a home or an application, and it was really strong glass.”
Jeff Williams, Apple COO
So Williams and his Apple cohorts decided to start collaborating to see if this glass would work for their iPhone.
“There were months of sheer terror because we were trying to make this thing work, and we were producing only about 12 phones a day because the glass was breaking,” Williams said.
But finally, the collaboration worked.
“It changed the industry, and it’s really thanks to the work of Corning, including the people right here in Harrodsburg, Kentucky,” Williams said.
The working relationship is still thriving today.