Apple CEO Steve Jobs' demos of the new iPhone 4 and iOS 4.0's capabilities were brought to a halt today by the bloggers, reporters, and developer attendees all being online at the same time, swamping the available spectrum in the packed Moscone West conference hall in San Francisco. Jobs was trying to demostrate the iPhone 4's new high-density screen but could not get example Websites to load.
Jobs pleaded with the audience to turn off their Wi-Fi-equipped gear, halting his presentation of the new iPhone's capabilities until enough people did. "I've got time," he joked. Jobs asked audience members to make sure their neighbors weren't secretly using Wi-Fi. After a few minutes, Jobs was able to proceed with his demos.
Before Apple's engineers figured out the cause of the problem, Jobs told the audience he didn't know what was causing the problem with the network. An audience member shouted out, "Try Verizon!" in a reference to Apple's exclusve deal with AT&T in the United States -- a network that happens to have poor 3G capacity in San Francisco. Jobs replied that he was using Wi-Fi, not 3G. That caused a snicker in the press gallery, as people joked that even Apple doesn't trust AT&T's 3G network.
An Apple engineer later told me there were 527 Wi-Fi hotspots set up in the room, most of which were MiFi devices, which connect to the Internet via 3G and set up a local Wi-Fi network so that laptops and mobile devices can access the Internet through them. More than 1,100 devices were connected to those and other local Wi-Fi networks set up by attendees, he said.
I'm happy to announce that I wasn't part of the overload problem. For my live coverage of the new iPhone, I tethered my MacBook Pro to a BlackBerry that connected to the Internet and ultimately to InfoWorld's servers over the Verizon Wireless network. It stayed up the whole time.