Web 2.0 has made our world more transparent. President Barack Obama has a Twitter account, as does Communist Dictator Fidel Castro. (Britney Spears has more followers than both Obama and Fidel put together, but that is another story.) Product roadmaps are now public as is proposed legislation. The world is a much more open place.
One company that has not gotten the transparency memo is Apple. They are so secret that they sue their customers for publishing blogs that speculate what new products are coming out. The tremendous secrecy surrounding Apple has served it well and I see no reason why they will change.
That said, the saga of the lost iPhone is starting to get real ugly. By now you know the story: last month, an Apple employee lost a next generation prototype of the iPhone 4G at a bar and the person who found it sold it to Gizmodo for $5000. Gizmodo promptly put an exclusive scoop on their web site reviewing the phone.
When that review went live, Apple went ballistic and said they want the phone back. To their credit, Gizmodo gave it back, but kept the web page up. Apple was not satisfied and then sent the police to raid the Gizmodo writer’s house and the police seized computers, hard drives, etc. Apple apparently is going after the person who found the phone and sold it to Gizmodo.
California, and several other US states, has a Shield Law, or a law protecting a journalist from revealing their source. Journalists are protected by free speech and obtain secret information all the time. While the ethics of buying the phone from the person who found it in the bar is somewhat questionable, it does not break any laws since the phone was lost and not stolen. The person who found the phone tried to return it to Apple, but did not have his calls returned. (Apparently he even tried an alphabetical search on Facebook for someone to talk to, but Apple is uber secret.) When Apple did not get back to him, he sold it to Gizmodo.
Nothing Apple can do now will make the leak and product review go away. Going after Gizmodo is like going after the New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers, no chance they are going to beat 230 years of free speech and free press. Apple has no case there. They can’t go after the person who sold the phone since Gizmodo is protected from reveling their source via California's Shield Law. Apple has no case there either. With each legal move and police raid, Apple is looking more and more arrogant. What should they do? Take the high road: drop it and move on. Apple should also enjoy the free publicity.