The Missing iPhoneThis is a fairly long story, but I'll try to sum it up. Apple was working on the next generation iPhone, and during testing, they allow a small number of employees to field test these prototypes outside the Apple campus. This is necessary for a number of reasons, and they have done this quite a bit in the past.
In March, an Apple employee became separated from his iPhone prototype while at a bar. Person B obtained the phone, made very little effort to return the phone to its rightful owner and then sold the phone to an online blog, Gizmodo, for $5,000. Apple, realizing the phone was lost, remotely disabled the phone, rendering it useless, before Gizmodo got their hands on it.
Gizmodo disassembled the phone, taking lots of photos in the process. They published all their photos and findings online one week ago. Read the whole story here.
Gizmodo ALSO published the name and photos of the Apple employee who lost the phone. They obtained this information from Person B who sold them the phone. Person B claimed that the phone was completely operational when he obtained it, and through the Facebook app, he was able to determine the identity of the phone's owner.
Apple then contacted Gizmodo, asking for the phone back. Gizmodo returned the phone.
This kind of winded down in the middle of last week, and things were quiet for a little while. The tech community was unsure of what would happen next, and there were a LOT of unanswered questions:
1) Was the phone originally lost or stolen?
2) Did Person B actually try and return the phone to the rightful owner?
3) What is the identity of Person B?
4) Would Apple contact the police, hoping for criminal charges to be pressed against Gizmodo (really their parent company, Gawker Media)?
5) Would Apple pursue a lawsuit for publishing trade secrets online?
6) Is the iPhone prototype really the next iPhone?
7) Is this real, or could it be a publicity stunt?
8) Would Apple just ignore this whole thing, hoping it would go away?
I understand to a lot of people, this is just a phone, and it's no big deal. Move on. But this is a unique situation that has implications far beyond the possible features of the next iPhone. What is the fine line between lost and stolen property? What sort of protection (if any) does an online journalist have when publishing trade secrets? What will karma do to the online journalist who decided it was ethical to publish the Apple employee's name? How would Apple handle this situation, knowing their legendary insistence on secrecy of unreleased products?
Today we learned that police raided the house of the Gizmodo journalist who broke the story, seizing several computers, his iPad and a bunch of other stuff. He wasn't home at the time, but he arrived a few hours into the search. Yikes.
Last week I wasn't totally sure how I felt about the whole chain of events. I felt that Person B held key pieces of information that are needed to complete the puzzle. But Gizmodo lost my support when they published the identity of the Apple employee whose phone was lost. For all we know, the phone was stolen. The police apparently agree with that assumption, seeing how their search warrant was granted based on a felony being committed (purchasing stolen goods).
I don't place any blame on Apple or their employee for anything at this point. The employee either lost the phone or had it stolen - both of which I can't say wouldn't happen to me. Apple has not commented on this publicly, we don't know anything about the employment status of the guy who lost the phone (I hope he keeps his job), and we don't know if Apple is going to press charges. I expect they will press charges at some point, and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds.
Anyway, that's a long blog about stuff most people could care less about. But it's a steamy romance novel for techies, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
And the new iPhone design? It's cool. I'm happy with mine, but it's neat to see what they're working on.