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What iPhone prototype bar snafu means for Apple

Tech news website Gizmodo got hold of a prototype of the iPhone 4G after it was left in a bar in Redwood City, Calif., and Gizmodo's analysis of its new features, along with video and pictures, is setting the web on fire. (Courtesy Gizmodo.com)

April 20, 2010 7:11:08 PM PDT
Apple has its missing iPhone prototype back. It was accidently left on a Peninsula bar stool by an Apple employee and the next thing he knew, the whole world was seeing every secret detail all over the Internet.

An Apple engineer spent the evening at a birthday celebration at the Redwood City German beer garden Gourmet Haus Staudt, but he left something behind very important -- a top-secret prototype of the next iPhone.

"It is pretty funny; first off, Apple doesn't have too many of these floating around and for one of these to be lost by one of their employees is very unusual," Gizmodo editor Jason Chen said.

The prototype ended up in the hands of tech blog Gizmodo. They will not say how, but they posted video showing the phone and its new features, including a second front-facing camera and a flash.

Skeptics wondered if it was a publicity stunt, but that notion was dispelled when a letter arrived from Apple's top legal officer, asking for the return of its property.

Gizmodo says the working phone was quickly deactivated remotely.

The blog identified the person who left it behind as 27-year-old Gray Powell, an Apple engineer.

The phone was never turned into the bar as found property. Gizmodo is not saying who took it.

"The employee is potentially in serious trouble; certainly he could be fired for doing this and Apple would be well within its rights to fire someone for doing that," Santa Clara University law professor and intellectual property expert Tyler Ochoa said. He says this is a major slip in the tight measures Apple takes to guard its trade secrets.

CNET.com blogger Brian Tong put it more bluntly.

"For them to lose potentially a prototype or product that belongs to them and for it to be showcased like it is... this is about as bad as it can get for Apple security," Tong said.

Apple did not respond to ABC7's request for an interview.

Perhaps the worst damage that has been caused by Powell is the fact that he has given the competition a leg-up on exactly what Apple is going to be coming out with later this year.


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