Apple boss Steve Jobs has openly accused tech blog Gizmodo of extortion in an interview with Walt Mossberg.
The accusation arose when Jobs was inevitably asked about the iPhone G4 saga, in which a prototype of Apple's next iteration was stolen from a California bar and flogged to Gizmodo for anything between $4,000 and $10,000 depending on which news source you favour.
Apparently, Steve phoned Gizmodo and asked for his phone back, but Jason Chen refused until he effectively had a written confession from Apple admitting that the handsert was indeed a genuine Apple prototype.
Gizmodo used the resulting letter to stretch the story out even further, adding to the millions of money-making hits already generated by the original story, the story which resulted from pulling the phone to bits and breaking it, the story which exposed (opens in new tab) the name and probably ruined the career of the engineer who had the phone stolen in the first place, and many more subsequent stories (opens in new tab) relating to the police action surrounding the saga.
Speaking to the Colonel Sanders of the tech world, Jobs explained why a pricelss prototype was out in the wild in the first place:
"To make a wireless product work well, you have to test it. And there’s no way to test it in a lab completely, so you have to carry them and test them out. And one of our employees was carrying one and there’s a debate as to whether it was left in a bar or stolen out of his bag, but I don’t know the answer to that.
"And the person that ended up with the phone decided they would try to sell it to somebody, so they called Engadget and they called Gizmodo. It turned out that the person that got the phone tried to activate it by plugging it into his roommate's computer and she’s the one who called the police, and that’s why they got the search warrant."
Steve then made it quite clear what he thought of Gizmodo's behaviour:
"So this is a story that’s amazing. It’s got theft, it’s got buying stolen property, it’s got extortion, I’m sure there’s sex in there somewhere. So someone should make a movie out of this. This whole thing is very colourful."
So, faced with an unprecedented leak, Jobs had to decide how to proceed. Should he sit back and wait for the fallout to settle, or go after the Gizmodo hacks with all guns blazing?
"When this whole thing with Gizmodo happened, I got a lot of advice from people that said 'You’ve got to just let it slide. You shouldn’t go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and they tried to extort you.' And I thought deeply about this, and I ended up concluding that the worst thing that could possibly happen as we get big and we get a little bit more influence in the world is if we change our core values, and start 'letting it slide'."
"I can’t do that. I’d rather quit. We have the same values now as we had then. We’re maybe a little bit more experienced, certainly more beat up, but the core values are the same."