The Tales of Two Top Secret Stolen Smartphone Prototypes
April 19th, 2010
Daniel Eran Dilger
The web is atwitter with reports of a top secret stolen smartphone prototype. This moment, it’s what appears to be Apple’s 4th generation iPhone. But nearly the same thing happened last year, too. Things just didn’t go as well that time.
.It is suggested that Gizmodo paid as much as $10,000 to obtain the stolen prototype phone. What it got was largely brain dead; it had been securely wiped remotely, meaning that all it does at this point is ask to be plugged into iTunes and re-imaged with fresh firmware.
So Gizmodo paid for what amounts to be alien technology that nobody outside of Apple knows how to activate into something that does anything useful. Given its wiped condition, Gizmodo can’t even say what the resolution of the screen or cameras are.
This Is Apple’s Next iPhone – Gizmodo
This All Happened Before
A year ago, a similar thing happened to Microsoft. Except that rather than being a top secret new prototype of a phone running an advanced new operating system, Microsoft lost control of a prototype device running Windows Mobile 6.5, which was being announced at the beginning of the year but wouldn’t really be ready until the end of the year.
WiMo 6.5 was already widely circulating at the time, but that didn’t stop the Telegraph from reporting, “There are fears that leaks regarding the features and early bugs in the software could mar the launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 which the company hopes will give it the edge over the iPhone and the new Google Android operating system. The new product includes support for touch-screen technology similar to that found on the Apple iPhone.”
Of course, the Telegraph was wrong, as it always it whenever it ventures into subjects that involve technology anywhere north of rubbing two sticks together to make fire. WiMo 6.5 was a complete joke of a placeholder, a slower version of WiMo 6.1 issued solely to distract from the fact that Microsoft hadn’t released Windows Mobile 7 as planned back in early 2009, and was even further away from finishing WiMo 8, which was the version purported to actually attain some parity with iPhone 1.0 features.
Microsoft has since abandoned its entire roadmap for Windows Mobile in order to release Windows Phone 7, and curiously, the new Pink / Kin phones aimed at the same demographic as the Zune ineffectually was.
But ignoring the general fiasco of Windows Mobile development, the really interesting part of the story was that Microsoft didn’t just wipe the device. In fact, it wasn’t until days later that the company insisted that it was able to wipe it. At that point, there had already been lots of gnashing of teeth over the fact that competitors might have gained access to, as the Telegraph hilariously intoned, “the prototype phone loaded with top-secret software created to rival Apple’s iPhone.”
If Microsoft’s remote wipe technology actually worked, there would not have been any story. Things would have worked out just like the iPhone prototype that was stolen. It would have been remotely deactivated to the point where anyone who obtained it would not be able to get anything off of it, nor even peruse its software feature set.