Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pursued by a Bear? There's an App for That!

Those who have had it with those "There's an App for That" commercials for the iPhone may not have appreciated just how broad that claim is. Consider the following story by Tom Kaneshige now on the Web site:

The "geniuses" at the Apple Store in Vermont have probably run into all sorts of excuses for broken iPhones, but they just didn't believe Kris Rowley. "A bear ate my iPhone," she told them.

This summer, Rowley was hiking in the woods of Vermont when she felt a predator's eyes following her. Rowley stopped dead in her tracks. A young bear slowly emerged from behind an evergreen tree. Rowley, CISO for the State of Vermont, knows about facing down malware—not avoiding a mauling.

Rowley backed away slowly, the bear followed slowly. Then Rowley had a funny thought: I wonder what is its motivation? Curiosity? She quickly decided that it wasn't really important. She backed away a little faster, the bear followed a little faster.

Rowley went through her mental list of how to prevent bear attacks. Play dead? A good last resort. Pepper spray? Didn't have it. Drop a backpack to distract the bear? She wasn't wearing one. All Rowley had was her iPhone.

She could use one of her lifelines and phone a friend. Or maybe there was an anti-bear app among the 80,000 apps on the App Store. There's Battle Bears, Bears on a Wire, Bear Beware, Chicago Bears, Go Bears!, My Teddy Bears, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The bear closed within 30 feet. "In a semi-panic, I threw the phone at the bear," Rowley says.

Turns out the bear was an Apple fanboy.

The bear sniffed and pawed at the iPhone, as Rowley briskly made her exit. Apparently, Rowley was not too concerned that her iPhone was now in the possession of a dangerous teenager and should be considered a data security breach.

One might think that this is a story with a happy ending. However, in the old Mad Magazine tradition of providing what-happened-next continuations of the classic fairy tales, Kaneshige revealed a coda on how Apple managed to fumble what could have been a great marketing pitch:

Two days later, armed with a baseball bat, Rowley returned to the scene of the crime. She wanted her iPhone back—and found it. Of course, it was marred with teeth and claw marks.

Rowley figured the good folks at Apple would understand and help her out. Heck, they might even applaud the iPhone's new application for self-defense. Alas, they didn't believe her. (If Apple doesn't believe the CISO of the state of Vermont, then the rest of us don't stand a chance.)

"I had to buy a new phone or forfeit my contract if I canceled, so I purchased a new phone at full price," Rowley says, although she doesn't seem too mad about it. "While saddened about my mangled iPhone, better the phone than me."

Perhaps Apple decided that this was a dangerous trend. What would they do if everyone gave up their iPhone to a bear so readily?

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