It’s been an interesting few days for the digerati. First Engadget posted some pictures over the weekend of what was purported to be the next iPhone. They came from a source who had apparently acquired the phone after it was left in a bar. Other sites first debunked them as a KIRF but later analysis looked like they were real. Yesterday, Gizmodo published a lengthy piece, including video of them with the device along with details of the Apple engineer who apparently left the device in a bar by accident. Finally, the incident appeared to have ended with a letter from Apple politely asking Gizmodo for their device back. Just to show how silly the whole story got, the NY Times reported on the whole process of the reporting. As we say on Twitter #sheesh
It seems for most of the day, this was a key story for the digerati. Was what Gizmodo did ethical? Was this a marketing ploy by Apple to take some of the attention of the launch of the HTC Incredible? were among the many topics debated.
Here’s my $.02 for what it’s worth.
I find it interesting that a non working prototype device gets more attention than most shipping products do. Anyone not taking Apple seriously in the mobile space is making a huge mistake.
The idea that Apple somehow orchestrated this is just silly IMHO. Some folks are just watching too many Oliver Stone movies. Seriously, do you think Apple could somehow magically time this so the story broke the same day that Verizon launched the HTC Incredible? Apple conspiracy theories are fun and this may be among the funniest.
I have mixed feelings about how Gizmodo handled the scoop. Brian Lam is someone I consider a friend but I’m not sure I agree with how the site handled the story. It is easy, however for me to criticize his actions. I’m not in his shoes and I don’t have to make the same calls he did under a tight deadline. Brian and his staff do have an obligation to their organization and their readers. I’ve talked in the past that I’m not fond of the whole “race to be first” that’s taken over much of the tech blogging world. I’m not sure that if I were in Brian’s shoes I would have handled things differently, although I like to think I would have.
At the end of the day, if there weren’t audience for this type of story, the story wouldn’t be written. Given the amount of traffic that’s at stake (and the dollars that traffic generates) I wonder how many would have passed on the scoop given the chance. One thing I’m pretty certain of, there was no reason for Gizmodo (at least as far as I can see) to put a public face on the Apple engineer who left the device in the bar. I expect that poor fellow has enough to deal with without the need to be embarrassed in public.
When all is said and done, we don’t really know all that much about the next device. Any device is about the sum of all the parts both hardware and software. Sure, we have a pretty good idea what might be coming but I suspect there’s still a lot more that we don’t know.
So what do you think? Did Gizmodo or Engadget step over a line here? What would you have done if you were the editor in chief of those sites? And perhaps a better question, did you follow the stories as the events broke? If you did, perhaps that’s one reason why the stories got written.