Steve Jobs 'It's only a phone' emails debunked

An email exchange between Apple CEO Steve Jobs and and angry iPhone 4 user has been making waves on the web for a few days now.

We first started following the thread of intrigue when the normally-reliable Boy Genius Report (BGR) published the transcript of an alleged email conversation between the messianic Apple leader Jobs and an aggrieved Apple fan whose identity had been disguised by BGR.

'Tom', as he was named in the original posting, had written to Jobs using the Apple CEO's well-known sjobs@apple.com email address bemoaning the iPhone 4's antenna troubles and consequent poor reception.

To say that 'Tom' comes across as petulant and aggressive in the initial exchanges is an understatement. He accuses Jobs of killing the Apple brand over one product, calls the company arrogant and rude, and says that he is ashamed to be a Mac fan.

Now we all know that Steve Jobs is a clever guy. Love him or hate him, there's no denying that the Apple supremo knows how to handle PR and marketing. He ably steers a company which gets more column inches of free publicity for its product launches than any other in the history of technology. The tiniest sniff of a new Apple device sends the rumour mill into overdrive, and a whole industry of tech writers dissects every utterance, every nuance, every syllable of what he says.

Jobs doesn't have private conversations. Every word he says or types or scribbles on the back of a napkin is immediately in the public domain. In this case, it appears that the angry Macolyte - who is apparently an advertising exec called Jason Burford - allegedly sold the transcript of his email conversation to BGR for an undisclosed sum.

Throughout the seemingly-genuine dialogue, Burford becomes increasingly aggressive, calling Jobs a "jackass" and accusing him of lying over claims that the iPhone's connection woes are just "a couple of days of rumours".

The story spread across the Internet like wildfire, not least because Steve's parting shot was reportedly: "Retire, relax, enjoy your family. It is just a phone. Not worth it."

At this point we originally dismissed the report as a fake and moved on. Once again, Jobs is a smart cookie, and for him to have said such a thing about one of the company's most important and potentially lucrative products is utterly absurd.

As it turns out, the final missive was incorrectly attributed to Jobs by an unfortunate "editing error", and has since been amended, but not before BGR had no doubt received countless revenue-generating hits for an ultimately worthless story.

Apple's PR machine has claimed that the entire exchange is a hoax, and without access to the computer on which the mails were exchanged there's no way to confirm the veracity of the claims either way. BGR claims that it has verified the email headers and information, and that it believes the exchange to be "100 per cent genuine", but we all know how simple these things are to fake, especially when there is easy money in the offering.

Just about every other reputable tech portal on the web heard the alarm bells ringing and dismissed the story as a probable fabrication. Disappointingly, the normally excellent Boy Genius Report has proved itself to be just another site prepared to sacrifice its integrity in order to post a cash-generating, Apple-bashing article, made all the more sensational by a horrific schoolboy editing gaffe.

If the emails are genuine, however, there is a little comfort for iPhone 4 owners who are experiencing dropped calls which have been attributed to a fault in the case design by many.

Steve's parting shot is "Stay tuned. We are working on it", which could suggest that the antenna woes might be fixed with a firmware update. If it was really him. Which it might not have been.