• Did Apple Find the iPhone Finder?

    It's the details that make a story. In the ongoing brouhaha about the Gizmodogate affair, what's more interesting to me than the legal wrangling or the business ramifications are the characters in the whole drama. The drunken engineer, the sensation-seeking publisher, the gung-ho cops, the tough-talking executive… they give the story life. Now, we can add some more characters to the cast: the Apple detectives and the college kid with the priceless prototype.

    WIRED is reporting that Apple apparently tracked down the person who came into possession of the fourth-generation iPhone prototype last week. It wasn't clear from the story whether this happened before or after police raided Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home, but according to WIRED's source (who insisted on anonymity due to the ongoing investigation), "[p]eople identifying themselves as representing Apple last week visited and sought permission to search" the apartment of a man identified only as being of "college age" and living in Silicon Valley.

    If true, the report would cast doubt on whether the device was actually stolen from Apple or just found, as Gizmodo has steadfastly claimed. The kid had apparently been showing the top-secret device to all his friends and neighbors for weeks, before contacting Gizmodo and other magazines. Though the source - presumably a friend or roommate of the finder - claims they approached the media "about the device to confirm its authenticity and help locate the owner," WIRED notes that they "received an e-mail March 28 offering access to the device, but did not follow up on the exchange after the tipster made a thinly veiled request for money." Nevertheless, the source insists, the $5,000 payment they received from Gizmodo was not a “sale,” saying that "it was made very explicit that Gizmodo was to help the finder return the phone to its rightful owner or give it back.” In addition, “Gizmodo said they could help restore the phone.”

    You can almost smell the bong water. If this is a sophisticated industrial thievery operation, they're doing a good job of covering their tracks with comedy. The whole case now seems to hinge on whether Apple can say the phone was stolen, rather than lost and found. If this kid's story is even part true, hauling him up on felony theft charges would be unfair in this writer's opinion.
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