Uproar at Apple over 3G MacBook bought on Craigslist

31 Aug 2011

The MacBook 3G prototype that was sold on Craigslist and subsequently emerged on eBay

A prototype MacBook with internal 3G capabilities was apparently sold on Craigslist earlier this year – and a fuming Apple Inc. wants it back.

The strange MacBook, which includes a slide-up antenna on the right hand side of the screen, was a prototype that should never have left the confines of Cupertino.

It turns out that North Carolina man Carl Frega purchased the machine on Craigslist with the intention of using it for parts for his computer repair business.

But, according to CNET, beneath the notebook’s metal frame was a slot for a SIM card as well as the external antenna.

The rare prototype is understood to be a generation of MacBook that would have been in the market around the same time the iPhone first launched and is no doubt a collector’s item.

It represents a rudimentary approach to built-in 3G technology in notebooks as today 3G enabled notebooks would have the antenna internally wrapped around the screen.

Frega in recent weeks is understood to have put the rare device on eBay. However, less than a day was the device up for auction and attracting bids of US$70,000 from buyers than soon Apple was requested it be pulled down, citing intellectual property rights.

A tell-tale signs that the device was a prototype was the fact that it had red circuit boards rather than the green ones that are commonplace.

This isn’t the first time prototypes from Apple have found their way to eBay. A prototype MacBookAir popped up on eBay in 2008 and a MacBook Pro emerged on the site in 2009.

Frega had in fact sold the computer on Craigslist but was brought to the small claims court in North Carolina after a dissatisfied customer was told at an Apple Store Genius Bar that it was full of non-Apple parts and may have been counterfeit. As part of the court’s judgement the device was returned to Frega who also had to pay a fine of over US$700.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years