The first stolen iPhone prototype had all the intrigue of a Sam Spade novel. There was a drunk bar scene, black market dealings, a media scandal, and a police raid. But this time around – that’s right, another iPhone prototype has gone missing – it reads more like something out of George Orwell’s 1984.
Orwell probably wouldn’t be nearly as enamored with Apple as those on the local police force and city council.
Here’s the backstory on missing prototype number two: An iPhone, probably an iPhone 5 prototype, went missing at a tequila bar in the tough Mission district of San Francisco in July. Using GPS, Apple tracked the phone to a home. Two Apple private investigators and four San Francisco police officers in plain clothes, who according to SF Police Chief Greg Suhr were providing “civil standby,” went to the home.
The events that follow are a bit unclear. Sergio Calderon, 22, who lives in the home, told SF Weekly that they identified themselves as police officers and asked to search his house. “That’s why I let them in,” Calderon said. Suhr says his officers did not enter the home and participate in the search; he doesn’t know how Apple private investigators identified themselves. Impersonating police officers, of course, is a crime.
The missing prototype wasn’t found.
As stated earlier, police officers were providing civil standby to ensure that things wouldn’t get out of control. After all, no one wants to see what happened in China when an iPhone went missing from electronics manufacturer Foxconn. (Okay, that’s a cheap shot.)
Seriously, though, civil standby, often used in domestic disputes to keep the peace, should have been used in the Foxconn case. Two years ago, Foxconn goons went to the apartment of the suspect, Sun Danyong, 25, searched for the iPhone but didn’t find it and then roughed him up. Later that day, Danyong jumped to his death from the 12th floor of his apartment.
But San Francisco sending four police officers to assist a private company to find a cell phone seems a little much. Then again, you need to know what Apple and its founder Steve Jobs mean to Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
Last month, Silicon Valley wept on the news of Jobs resigning as Apple CEO. Silicon Valley had lost a favorite son – one who epitomized its rebellious, creative, innovative spirit. This loss was catastrophic. Never mind that all of the hand-wringing is over a change in CEO leadership at a single company.
Earlier this summer, Jobs presented his plans to build a massive spaceship-looking building to a fawning Cupertino city council. The building is expected to fly through the approval process. Let’s hope council members are able to wipe away their tears of Apple admiration and consider the local impact. (For more, check out Apple’s Spaceship Campus: What’s the Message?)
There’s no question Apple holds tremendous sway over the denizens of Silicon Valley and San Francisco and their government entities. The fact that it’s getting hard to distinguish between Apple private investigators and San Francisco police officers reminds me of another Orwell novel, Animal Farm:
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.