We’ve avoided covering the supposed iPhone prototype leak for the pure reason that it’s not the type of news that we want to support with this website. The recent events in the prototype saga are no longer about a device but morality as a whole. Let’s recap incase you’ve some how missed the whole story unfold. Please, remember we’re not condoning either side’s actions… but this information is unsettling at best.
Back in March, an Apple iPhone engineer (whose name we’ll be gracious enough not to mention) left a prototype iPhone in a bar not too far from Apple’s Cupertino campus. As said engineer was leaving, someone asked if that was his iPhone. To this he responded, “No.”
The person who asked the question picked it up and proceeded to play with it and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary with the iPhone… until later. After a while he realized that this wasn’t a regular iPhone. He tried to figure out the owner and claims failed attempts to contact Apple. Realistically, how many companies would actually respond positively to the statement, “Hey, I have your prototype… do you want it back?” In his mind, he did everything he could to return the iPhone to its rightful owner.
After a while of sitting on the device, he decided to shop it around to various news sources. No one would take it from him because, like Apple, they didn’t believe him. That was until Gizmodo came into the game. This isn’t the first time Gawker has been somewhat nefarious with their reporting. They offered a cash sum of $100,000 to anyone who would actually let them get their hands on the iPad before it was even announced. Because of that, their purchase of the iPhone prototype should not come as a surprise to anyone… the iPad bounty was enough to anger the news world but the iPhone prototype has pushed many news sources over the edge. TUAW has even referred to them as flippant, disrespectful, and adolescent. Not to mention the blatant transparency of the whole ordeal: Gizmodo has kept its readers a little too informed — probably in hopes that it won’t come back and bite them in the ass. That’s exactly what happened.
Friday night at 9:45pm local time, Jason Chen — Senior Editor of Gizmodo — came home to a scene out of a movie: local police were ransacking his house to find any and all evidence related to the recent acquisition of the iPhone prototype. Some of the items seized are as follows: two hard drives, several cell phones, multiple digital cameras, a couple flash drives, a plethora of computers and even Jason’s personal media server. All the while, he tried to explain that the search was illegal… the police didn’t care. The police did have a warrant but it is still unclear whether that warrant was actually valid. We’re not offering legal counsel by any means, but journalists are given certain liberties from the law and it appears as though the warrant and subsequent search of Jason’s property may be in violation of the California Penal Code. We won’t go into the details, but the law is never absolute and — realistically — can only be interpreted in court. The police were doing what was required of them… anything outside of that isn’t up to us, Gawker or Jason Chen.
We jokingly referred to Steve Jobs as Vito Corleone in our title… but Apple’s secretive nature, their legal domination and now their provoked, forceful re-acquisition of an iPhone prototype is not disproving the similarities. Do they own the police? Certainly not. Was this kind of reclamation absolutely necessary? Certainly not. Would the police initiate this type of investigation without Apple’s encouragement? Certainly not.
One thing that can be said for sure: this sucks for everyone. Gawker has taken the situation too far and Apple responded by doing the same. Everyone knew that there would be another iPhone this summer. There’s no reason to dissect the device and explain everything about it ahead of time… it spoils the mystery for everyone who cares and only solidifies truth for the people who don’t. We know that Gawker is out to make money and we’re unfortunately adding to their spoils by running this story, but no respectable media source should put the lives of their writers at risk to publish a story… ever.
I’m personally disappointed with the way this situation was handled from beginning to end. I feel sorry for the engineer. I feel sorry for the bloke at the bar who “found” the device. I feel sorry for Apple. I feel sorry for Jason Chen (sort of). I do not feel sorry for Gawker: I hope they get what they have coming in court… if it even goes that direction. Just leave the individuals out of it and let company fight company.
Gawker/Gizmodo, you should have known better. As TUAW put it, this debacle “won’t win