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Steve Wozniak out of line at iPhone store?

Contrary to reports, some customers say the Apple co-founder didn't wait in line all night for the iPhone 3G, but instead cut in front at the last minute.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read
Steve Wozniak sits with friends before he allegedly got up to cut in line at a San Jose Apple store Doug Broussard

Updated at 10 a.m. PDT with comment from Steve Wozniak.

Steve Wozniak helped create Apple. He's worth millions. He's a hero to geeks the world over.

Would he really pretend to wait in line for Apple gadgets?

That's the claim of some perturbed customers who say that Wozniak--contrary to media reports--did not wait in line all night in front of the Apple Store at Westfield Valley Fair Mall in San Jose, Calif., to buy an iPhone 3G.

In fact, according to Doug and Patrice Broussard, Woz actually never waited in line at all. The couple, who were there, said the Apple co-founder lounged on some of the mall's nearby sofas for about four hours and then ambled up to the front of the queue when the store opened at 8 a.m and simply cut in line. No discussion.

And he wasn't alone. He had his posse in tow, say the Broussards, who photographed the Woz playing big shot. Didn't anybody say anything?

No. Doug Broussard said it all happened too quickly and, well, who's going to send the creator of the Apple II to the end of the line?

Still, the Broussards said the people who saw it were unhappy.

Who doesn't know the politics of waiting in lines? Taking cuts is bad form, even for VIPs. But those who give them to friends--six friends--risk a butt kicking from those behind in line.

On Friday, when the iPhone 3G went on sale, Apple stores were letting in only about 30 people at a time. This means seven people who might have spent hours in that mall waiting could have gone home sooner had it not been for the Woz and his buddies.

Wozniak could not be reached to comment Saturday night, but he did respond to this report in the CNET News' TalkBack section, asserting that he had been invited by the store staff to be in the front of the line and that store staff had cleared it with those already in front (read his entire response here):

I told them I would come at 10 AM and get in line and they told me back that the line would be short and they had talked to the people in front and that the people in front WANTED me to go first. I discussed the fact that I'd be with a small group too. The Apple store staff also said that the chairs and table in front of the store would be reserved for me. So sitting in those chairs I was in line. I am thankful for the chairs. I'm actually older than almost everyone in the lines these days.

Woz, just after he and about six friends jumped to the head of the line. Doug Broussard

Is this the end of the world? Not likely. But if the Broussards' account is accurate, it was unfair and, in Wozniak's case, unnecessary.

Besides, by his own admission, he doesn't even have to wait. He's boasted in the past that Apple's other Steve would send him an iPhone special if he asked. If Wozniak pulls these stunts to prove that even he is willing to wait for the iPhone, then it's a cheap PR move at best.

If he's trying to show that he's still one of the geeks who is willing to camp out for the hottest gadgets, he shouldn't bother if he's only going to demand perks.

What I do know is that Wozniak enjoys a positive public image in Silicon Valley. He's seen as the approachable and humble genius, which contrasts nicely with the aloofness of Steve Jobs, Apple's other co-founder and CEO.

Why mess with that?

"I certainly don't mean Woz any ill will," said Doug Broussard. "But his resources and pull in the Valley should be used for more than jumping in line when the new gadgets come out."