Steve Jobs said Tuesday he doesn't know where the Gizmodo/iPhone prototype case "will end up" legally, and that the district attorney is still investigating what happened. He also defended AT&T, the nation's exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States, saying the company is "improving" its network, although he wishes it were "improving faster."
Apple's CEO spoke at The Wall Street Journal's annual "D: All Things D" technology conference, Tuesday night in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., answering questions by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
Jobs said that Apple finds "very troubling" the 13 suicides this year at China's Foxconn Technology Group, which is the world's largest contract maker of electronics such as the iPod, Dell computers and Nokia phones.
Foxconn, he said, "is not a sweatshop," he said. "For a factory, it's a pretty nice factory." However, he said, the suicides have concerned Apple enough that it is sending some of its own employees, as well as "some outside folks" to China to "look into the issue."
Jobs' comments were shared on the conference blog. He is due to speak Monday at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, where he is expected to talk about the next iPhone.
Mossberg asked Jobs about the Gizmodo case. The gadgets Web site obtained a missing prototype of the new iPhone in April. The device was left behind in a bar by an Apple engineer, and Gizmodo shared photos and information about the phone, which it purchased for $5,000 from a man who was in the bar.
"To make a wireless product work well, you have to test it," Jobs said Tuesday. "And one of our employees was carrying one and there’s a debate about whether it was left in a bar or stolen … and the person who found it decided to sell it … and it turned out this person plugged it into his roommate’s computer and that roommate called the police.”
“And the police showed up and took this guy’s computers … and the DA is investigating it … and I don’t know where it will end up.”
Defending no Flash
Jobs also responded to questions about its new iPad not using Adobe Flash. Flash-based video and games are found on many Internet sites, but Apple has not allowed Flash on its iPhone and iPad. Jobs has described Flash as unreliable and ill-suited for mobile devices.
"We don’t think Flash makes a great product, so we’re leaving it out," Jobs said Tuesday. "Instead, we’re going to focus on technologies that are in ascendancy. If we succeed, people will buy them and if we don’t they won’t … and, so far, I have to say, people seem to be liking the iPad. We sell like 3 iPads a second.”
Apple said Monday that iPad sales have topped 2 million since its launch almost two months ago.
Jobs also said that Apple was interested in making a tablet computer before a cell phone, but reversed course.
“My God, I said, this would make a great phone … so we shelved the tablet and built the iPhone.”
While many iPhone customers would like to see the phone offered by Verizon Wireless or other carriers, Jobs defended the exclusive agreement with AT&T.
"AT&T took a big leap on us and decided they were going to trust us to do the right thing with the phone. And that’s worked out quite well for both of us," he said.
As to the problem of network congestion, and dropped calls, Jobs said, "They’re doing pretty good in some ways and in others they could do better ... Remember, they deal with way more data traffic than anyone else. And they’re having trouble. But they have the fastest 3G network and they’re improving. I wish they were improving faster. … I’m convinced that any other network, had you put the iPhone on it would have had the same problems.”
Jobs said that news last week that Apple passed Microsoft in market valuation is "surreal, but it doesn't really mean anything."
(Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)