Photos and video of what is thought to be the next generation iPhone, or iPhone 4G, have ignited the Web. Was it lost or stolen?
A next-generation Apple "iPhone 4G" prototype? Left on the floor of northern California bar? Traded, photographed, and disassembled by tech gossip sites for all the Web to see? It sounds more Erin Brockovich than Apple.
But that very storyline has played out over the last two days, with the emergence of pictures and video of what is thought to be a preproduction version of the world's most popular smart phone. What's most surprising: that it's Apple at the center of this storm.
The company is famous for the control it exhibits. Its products, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone, are walled gardens, relying on proprietary software and guarded by guidelines that at times are accused of being overreaching.
Product announcements, too, occur within a controlled environment, away from the trade shows, at media events choreographed by CEO Steve Jobs and designed to drum up maximum media hype.
Even more firm: the iron grip Apple keeps on unannounced products.
The iPad, out last month, was reportedly kept under glass and bolted to a table so it wouldn't walk away while developers worked on it before its release. When Gawker Media in January offered a $100,000 bounty for evidence of the as-yet unreleased Apple tablet (later revealed as the iPad), Apple was quick to defend its intellectual property, sending a cease-and-desist letter.