Steve Wozniak, the patron saint of Apple computer engineers, is smiling down on Gray Powell.
Wozniak, who along with Ronald Wayne and Steve Jobs founded Apple in 1976, recently had himself photographed drinking a beer, staring into an iPhone and wearing a T-shirt that reads: "I went drinking with Gray Powell and all I got was a lousy iPhone prototype."
Powell, 27, is the now famous Apple engineer who last month went to a Redwood City, Calif., bar to celebrate his birthday but left behind what is believed to be the prototype of Apple's next-generation iPhone. Some unidentified person scooped up the phone and sold it to the blog Gizmodo for $5,000. CNET reported Friday that Silicon Valley police are investigating.
The loss of the phone and the subsequent publishing of the device's features could cost Apple big money and has turned Powell into a figure of ridicule in some quarters. When news of the lost handset spread and after Gizmodo identified Powell as the person who lost the phone, many Apple watchers feared his career at the company was finished.
But Gray's father, Robert Powell, told CNET earlier in the week that his son may be OK at the company.
Apparently, Wozniak is able to empathize with Powell's plight, or at the least, he has compassion for him.
"I'd laugh if the same thing were done to me," Woz wrote to his friend Dan Sokol, an engineer and long-time associate of Wozniak's who forwarded the photos and an e-mail exchange between the two men to CNET.
On Saturday morning, Wozniak wrote a follow-up note to CNET: "It seems clear that (Powell) kept the iPhone prototype secret enough to satisfy Apple. It's a bad accident that could happen to any of us."
Still, Powell can be sure to expect to some good-natured teasing from his fellow engineers for a long time to come.
"He will never ever live it down," Sokol said. "No matter what the circumstances were, he's the guy in the barrel, as they say. You might as well have some fun with it."
Below is a copy of Wozniak's e-mail conversation with Sokol.
From: Steve WozniakNote: The obviously forgiving Wozniak is apparently referring to stories by CNET reporters, including the author of this piece, about alleged line cutting by him during past iPhone and iPad launches.
Date: April 23, 2010 6:03:42 PM PDT
Subject: Re: Fwd: regarding the iPhone photo
At 5:59 PM -0700 4/23/10, Dsokol wrote:
Sokol: Cnet wants to talk to me about your picture.
Wozniak: Great. Any smile is worth it, that's my side. I'd laugh if the same thing were done to me. But I didn't cut into iPhone/iPad lines.