I now have my doubts about The Genius Bar at the Apple Store. On Friday, after court, I stopped by an Apple Store to get some technical help from the folks at The Genius Bar. A few weeks ago, I left a set of airpods in their charger in a pair of pants and ran it all through a wash cycle. I was surprised that the airpods worked great, but the charger did not. So, when the airpods died, there was no charging them.

The Genius Bar was booked up. So, I made an appointment to come back. I received a text to come back in. And all was good.

I’ve always perceived the Apple Store as not aggressive or into high pressure sales. And I’ve always viewed the Genius Bar as sort of walk-in tech support, separate from the sales process altogether. So when I spoke with their representative, I trusted his advice when he said that the airpod would ultimately fail over time due to the water contact (yes, I was honest about the wash cycle thing, which may have made me seem to be an easy mark.). Then there was what came next.

He advised that I buy a replacement charger, and two replacement airpods separately at a price of $69.00 each since water damage is out of warranty. I then asked him, a few seconds later, why I would buy three pieces for more more than I could pay for brand new airpods off the shelf. And he looked like I’d caught him. All of this made me question his original advice regarding replacing the charger versus the entire set. But I ultimately just bought new airpods because I didn’t (1) want to be out the time that it would take to call tech support or return to the Apple Store or (2) pay for a whole new set of airpods plus purchase a new charger now.

Maybe the guy was following a script and didn’t think it through, but I also see the Apple Genius Bar thing no longer as tech support but an extension of Apple sales. And I also wonder if I was “taken” at some level. The genius also asked me some questions about my business to take an opportunity to try to have someone call me later to upsell me a bunch of business products. It was a bad time to discuss long-term¬†sales with me.

I’m wondering how much lawyers do this at the beginning of a new case by filing a bunch of pleadings that don’t advance the client’s cause,

Before this week, I had never heard of the All Writs Act of 1789. As I understand from the news accounts I have read this week, a Federal Magistrate cites it as authority to order Apple to develop software that law enforcement can then use to break into an iPhone. For anyone who’s ever dealt with this on their phone, here’s what happens. If you try repeatedly to enter the password to unlock an iPhone, successive unsuccessful attempts result in a delay. So, you can’t try to log in for a set period of time, which increases with each attempt. Eventually, try enough times, and the iPhone wipes out all of the contents. This protects iPhone owners from a brute force attack or a program that tries random characters until it reaches the right combination.

In an open letter, Apple CEO Tim Cook has explained that it complies with court orders and subpoenas to provide materials in its possession.

However, the password to the evidentiary phone at issue is not in Apple’s possession. The phone is not in Apple’s possession. It cannot provide material it lacks. Until this week, I would have thought that this would be the end of the story. But alas no. A Federal Magistrate Judge has ordered Apple to create software that would unlock the encryption on this phone and provide that software to the government.

I’m new to the All Writs Act of 1789, but this seems, at first blush, like complete lunacy:

  • It seems odd to me that the government could conscript software engineers to code up anything and give that code to the government. This feels like indentured servitude.
  • It’s a bit unsettling that the argument from the government is, “make this software for us and give it to us. We’ll just use it for this one special case. Trust us. We’re the government.”
  • It’s only a matter of time before this software, once created, gets into the hands of bad guys or bad governments.

Maybe I’m missing something here. And I’m open to having my mind changed. But this sounds dangerous.