Matt Hamblen

Running to the boy's room in hot pursuit of iPhone news

June 09, 2008 10:01 PM EDT

I wasn't sure whether to hold this blog item. In the end, I decided it really, really had to go.

Monday, I was at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. I just finished watching Steve Jobs launch the second generation iPhone. I'm in the secure press area working on my story, when, you know, I really have to go.

I started off for the wash room, but was told by Apple officials that I couldn't go alone. I needed an escort.

I could tell that the nice Apple p.r. man was a tad bit embarrassed at walking me there the first time.

I was a little amazed, as you might expect. When we got to the bathroom, I asked him if he wanted to come watch, as if I were about to produce a sample for a drug test. He smiled and, thinking fast, said, "You have to wash up by yourself."

A little more than an hour later, while I was working on my laptop in the press area, I asked to use the facilities again, thinking I'd look ill if I asked the same man. Indeed, the Apple woman that I asked smiled when I said, "Do you think I could handle a walk to the bathroom on my own?" She politely said that I still needed an escort.

So, I went to my favorite restroom escort, and he looked at me like I WAS ill. "I'm sure I look like an old man with a bladder problem, but I've been drinking a lot of coffee," I explained. After I went, there were of course several jokes about what might be wrong with me.

On this second trip, I was warned in friendly fashion to be quiet as I walked the 50 yards down the hallway, since Apple officials such as Steve Jobs were interviewing various press and analysts behind curtains. Apparently, I not only have a bladder problem, but I run off loudly at the mouth as well.

I shared my story of these trips to the john with some journalist friends sitting in the press room, and they began to tell me their tales of Apple paranoia. One reporter said that when he went to cover an event at the Apple Cupertino facility, he was treated like a convict on home suspension , almost as if he needed an ankle bracelet to track his movements.

He pointed out that while the Apple vs. PC ads on TV show Apple's guy as hip and relaxed, it is really the Microsoft guys who are more relaxed, at least when inviting reporters to cover them. One colleague said it sounded like fourth grade again, where the pupils have to ask for a potty pass.

So, through the rest of the afternoon, my reporter friends, women and men alike, said they were going to storm the barricades and visit the bathroom without an escort. One said she made it back without the escort, and a man said he told the escort he was going on the floor unless he could go on his own. I did not verify either account (!)

None of this really matters much at all, I know. Apple is clearly building market leading products, and how Apple watches the press is not really a big deal. But I am still wondering, a little, if the new GPS tracking capability in the iPhone might someday be used to track trips to the restroom. ( I imagine I could disable such a feature, right?)

On a serious note, I presume that Apple wanted to prevent me and other reporters from sneaking off to one of the interview rooms where the new iPhone 2.0 was being displayed. (Apple also kicked reporters out of the developer's conference following the Jobs keynote and posted warnings to developers not to share proprietary information from their conference)

During an authorized interview, I did get to hold one of the black 3G iPhones, and a white one, and noticed the feel of the plastic rear portion (to allow easy transmission of radio signals) and the slight bulge in the shape. While I was allowed to hold them, I was not allowed to photograph them.

It seems that Apple marketeers are holding onto the mystery of their next-gen product until July 11.

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