The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, January 14, 2005

And to think I used to admire Apple and Steve Jobs

Apple Computer made news this week by unveiling a $499 version of their popular but expensive iMac computers. Unfortunately, an intrepid blogger got a hold of this information and leaked it. Sadly, the company decided to retaliate for spoiling the surprise by suing the blogger.

It turns out that the blogger is a student and a freshman at Harvard University. Typical. Actually it makes a lot of sense. Many smart students go off to work for the tech companies over their summers and come back with lots of proprietary information that could come out in a conversation over dinner in the cafeteria.

But it's really concerning that yet another company confuses patent protection with total autocratic control over the environment. The design of the iMac could certainly be a trade secret although anyone who ever opened a PC can see that you could probably teach yourself to assemble one in a matter of minutes and get the parts at the local MicroCenter. But is the mere fact that you made a computer which will cost $499 a trade secret? I don't see how much competitive advantage Apple gets from being able to unveil it when no one in the world knows it's coming but I grant stah spoiling the surprise could theoretically reduce publicity. Still, I barely have time to read the papers or see TV news these days and I noticed a photo of Steve Jobs holding one and even read the caption so it certainly got my attention.

The more concerning fact is that this is a matter of free speech for a person who is engage in a journalistic enterprise. If that person does not work for a company and can get ahold of certain information as a journalist, he has every right to publish it. When the person works for the company and the company is doing something illegal we call this whistleblowing and say it should be protected. If the US government wants to run a special military operation and some journalist finds out there isn't a whole lot they can do about it. But Apple can penalize this poor 18 yr old kid? Come on! Shame on you Steve Jobs. You make Bill O'Reilly look so much less petulant.

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