Categories
apple TV

Thoughts on Apple’s fired engineer

Apple has fired a radio frequency engineer who allowed his daughter (vlogger Brooke Peterson) to record a prerelease iPhone X, then post the result to YouTube. The offending video has since been pulled (at Apple’s request), but it’s not difficult to find it online.

A few random thoughts:

  • First, let me say up front that I’m sorry that this happened. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for Peterson and her family to deal with the aftermath of this episode, particularly since it all happened in such a public-facing way.
  • Turning to the offending video itself (and on a lighter note), those inside Apple are struggling with the flagship phone’s name, too. Just before the 3:00 mark, the engineer calls it the “iPhone Ex” (i.e., not the “iPhone Ten”).
  • The Caffè Macs pizza looks delicious.
  • Halfway through the video, the engineer reveals that his team is scheduled to move into Apple Park (the company’s spaceship-like new headquarters) in December. I wonder whether he was authorized to announce this, given the level of public interest in the campus. If not, that revelation may have factored into his dismissal, as well.
  • The Petersons unknowingly mirrored Apple’s actual prerelease marketing strategy for the iPhone X: invite little-known YouTuber to Apple’s home turf, give them an exclusive hands-on with the iPhone X, and invite them to publish their thoughts ahead of major press outlets. One blogger even argues that Peterson’s video is more interesting than the officially-sanctioned takes.
  • You would think that the engineer’s internal alarm would have gone off the instant his daughter whipped out her dSLR on campus. Apple’s commitment to secrecy is infamous at this point, and in the past few years, the company has clamped down even harder on employee leaks. It would be difficult for Apple leadership to overlook the (very public) violation without undermining their authority inside the company. So why didn’t the engineer stop her—either mid-recording or before she uploaded?
  • Brooke Peterson has since posted her reflections on the incident. She claims that she was shocked that her “little, innocent video” garnered so much attention, when there were so many other hands-ons already posted online. It’s true that Peterson’s video didn’t reveal much about the iPhone X that we didn’t already know. But at the time it hit YouTube, precious few recordings of the X “in the wild” had leaked—and none of them came from inside Apple. It’s not surprising that this content went viral.

In Peterson’s defense, I doubt that she aimed to sacrifice her dad’s job to boost her YouTube subscriber count. But, whether intentionally or not, that’s what happened. Before her iPhone X hands-on, Peterson had just 87 subscribers; now, barely a week later, she has over 12,000.

That’s a solid base on which to build an internet personality brand, if Peterson goes that direction. At the very least, she plans to continue posting Youtube videos; as she states in her follow-up, “I’ll see you guys at my next vlog.” ■

Categories
movies Uncategorized

How Disney kept its ‘Force Awakens’ secrets

Bill Whitaker, correspondent for 60 Minutes, tried to record a Force Awakens scoring session with his iPhone:

So, this is John Williams, and I’m here; let me record some of this. So I took out my cell phone. …. These two representatives of Disney came racing over and kind of demanded that I cease and desist.

When they first came over and asked me to delete it, I did. And then, as we were leaving, they asked, “So… did you delete the delete?” I said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

It’s incredible how little anyone actually knows about The Force Awakens’ plot. The trailers reveal very little actual story. The actors promoting the movie have remained tight-lipped (citing brutal non-disclosure agreements). Even John Williams’ soundtrack won’t drop until premiere day (usually, film scores are released weeks before the movie itself hits theaters).

As another 60 Minutes producer explains, “Disney has a very tight grip on this film; they don’t want anything to get out. There are people whose full-time job it has been to make sure that nothing leaks to the Internet, or that nothing gets sent out to the world at large.” Judged by how little we know, those censors did good work.[1]

Contrast Disney’s secrecy to how The Phantom Menace was handled, back in 1999. Two months before Episode I premiered, Weird Al had written “The Saga Begins”, a parody song that accurately summarizes the film’s entire plot. His lyrics even mention never-before-seen characters like Jar-Jar Binks and Boss Nass, along with exotic locales like Naboo and Coruscant. It’s spot-on.

How’d he do it? Weird Al received no exclusive sneak peeks from Lucasfilm. No one snuck him a pre-release script. Instead, as Yankovic explains:

The song was entirely based on Internet rumors. I gathered all the leaked info I could about the movie from all the various Star Wars websites… and was able to piece together the basic plot.


  1. Yes, there are places online where you can find informed guesses at The Force Awakens’ storyline. Fans have sifted each trailer for clues and assembled a rough plot outline. I already know more than I wish I knew. My only solace? Maybe these superfans’ guesses are wrong.  ↩