09.30.12

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After the Apple-Samsung Ruling

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft at 4:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Samsung Galaxy S2

Summary: An overview of articles and some observations about Apple’s assault on Android

THE vanity of Apple has been made much easier to see in light of reports that a billion dollars are not enough for bogus allegations. As Forbes put it: “I’m not surprised that this is what they’re thinking, it’s just interesting to see the point being made openly. This isn’t a fight about who sells what telephone hardware: it’s a fight about who gets to dominate the future ecosystem.

“Every so often we get to a break in a technology. When the incumbents find themselves faced with disruptive insurgents. Examples abound: the move from horses to cars meant that those providing energy for transport found that their incumbency protected them not one whit. For that energy for travel moved from hay and oats, or perhaps teams of horses, to the provision of petrol. So there was no value any longer in that supply chain that provided horses, hay and oats. And no incumbency value either: that you had such a chain, that an insurgent would have to spend a lot of capital to build one, didn’t help you either.”

Apple’s aggression against Free software goes quite a way back; tax on libre platforms can be imposed indirectly with distant oversight from influential people like Steve Jobs and in turn tax platforms that are price-sensitive. As one reporter put it: “The Raspberry Pi Foundation answered those pleas on Friday, revealing that it has struck deals that allow individuals to buy the licences if they want to add them to the H.264 support baked into the Raspberry Pi’s hardware.”

This is why patents on software are so probematic. They elevate costs or impede distribution of innovative products. Apple not only wants a tax; it seeks embargoes that will not work because “The weird verdict in the Apple vs Samsung case has opened a Pandora’s box – the more the foreman is talking to the press the more inconsistencies we are getting to know. This disclosure makes Apple’s victory look like a soap bubble. However, there is one clear win for Samsung. The jury did not find the ‘banned’ Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringing upon any of Apple’s patents.”

Anger is being directed at Apple for turning to a hypocritical battle (Apple shamelessly copies designs, still). None of it comes at no cost and the decision against Samsung is in doubt [1, 2] after apparent trial incompetence. Samsung says that the trial “Was Not Fair; Jury Messed Up,” as Pamela Jones put it. In another post of hers she writes: “This is in the believe it or not category, but the foreman in the Apple v Samsung trial is *still* talking about the verdict and why the jurors did what they did. And the more he talks, the worse it gets for that verdict.

“Gizmodo asked him to sit today for live questions. And believe it or not, he did it. And when asked if the jury was ever asking whether or not a patent should have issued, he claims that they never did because that wasn’t their role and the judge told them to assume the patents issued properly and not to second guess that determination.”

One author criticises — as we did many times before — the ITC, which often plays a role at the behest of US-based corporations. Timothy B. Lee writes: “If you follow the smartphone patent wars, you’ve probably heard of the International Trade Commission (ITC), which seems to get dragged into every high-profile patent dispute over the devices. Just this month, Motorola asked the ITC to ban various Apple products from the US, and the ITC separately ruled that Apple doesn’t infringe some Samsung patents. But how did this obscure Washington bureaucracy become a major front in the patent wars?”

The combination of agencies like the ITC and USPTO helps protect American business from competition; it is nothing to do with justice and innovation but it’s about business interests.

Google is not too rattled by the latest ruling as Apple was not the first with such a GUI. Here is an example of misdirection:

  • Time for Android to radically change the UI

    No matter how we feel about the total victory handed to Apple against Samsung in the landmark patent infringement case recently concluded, it is what it is. The court ruled that many functions of Android are too similar to those of iOS protected by patents. It also found that the look and feel of Samsung’s device interfaces, and Android’s by association, also infringe on Apple’s patents.

The problem is the patents. They should not have been granted. The Apple-Samsung case was talked about by many, but not many saw what happened in Asian courts. With a global patent office this may all be different, but for now we just have a US ruling favouring the US side with a lot of coverage in the US press. The FSF and Google published some responses amid pressure from the outside world. Google enjoyed victory against Oracle’s claims, but this one is a bit of a pain — some controversial ruling that might not even matter. Richard Hillesley thinks that the Apple vs Samsung case helps signal the time to “fix this patent farce”. The lawyers expect to see an appeal and as Andy Updegrove put it: “Now that the jury has given Apple almost everything it asked for in its infringement suit against Samsung, what should we expect to happen next? I think it’s a given that Samsung will appeal. Given the damages awarded and the obvious determination of Apple to defend its patents, Samsung has little choice but to press forward wherever it can in court.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ultimate goal is to prevail through litigation, because it will constantly be running into existing and new Apple patents for so long as they remain competitors in the marketplace. Ultimately, what should make the best sense for Samsung is to negotiate the most comprehensive patent cross license with Apple that it can, and maintaining a full court press throughout the world’s legal venues is the best way to ensure that it can get the best terms possible in such a license.”

Dr. R. Keith Sawyer says that innovation loses. To quote his column: “As a scholar of creativity and innovation, I believe it’s too easy to get a patent and too easy to defend a patent. This blocks innovation because patent holders are allowed to prevent others from building on and improving their patents. That’s a problem because ‘innovation is incremental; every new step forward always builds on a long chain of prior innovations.’ If any one link in the chain is allowed to block all future enhancements, then innovation stops.”

Apple’s hyped-up products (like the hypePad) are getting ridiculed and their chances of beating Android are seriously doubted by some. To quote SJVN: “I hate to break it to you, but the new iPhone 5 is not going to be the second coming of Steve Jobs; it’s not going to give the economy a big push upward; nor will it be the best phone ever. It’s just going to be a new smartphone.

“The real news, which has been written on analyst walls around the world for months, is that Android phones continue to out-sell iPhones by a wide margin. For all the hype, for all the hysteria, iPhones come in second to Android.”

Microsoft has no chance in this area and when it comes to tablets too, Android is far more attractive an option. As SJVN puts it: “I mean seriously. Asus, a mid-range computer vendor, wants $599 for a Nvidia Tegra ARM-powerd Windows RT tablet? The Windows 8 tablet with an Atom processor for $799? Oh, and if you want a keyboard for either one, it will cost you an extra $199!?

“Come on! My Nexus 7, the best tablet I’ve found to date, cost me $250. A totally maxed out iPad 3 runs runs $829. I’ll take either of those in a New York minute over a Windows 8 tablet at those prices.”

There is also a report about the realisation that Apple is overhyped. It says that “[a] school which spent a fortune “upgrading” its teachers from their laptops to Apple iPads and TVs has admitted it made a big mistake falling for the hype.

“According to PC Pro, the unnamed school’s headmaster was seduced by a scheme that allowed all the school’s staff to replace their laptop computers with an iPad 2.

“At first, staff, who knew nothing about technology, were thrilled at the prospect and jumped at the chance of exchanging their laptop for an iPad.

“Now they are finding that the whole thing was a little hasty and there is a black cloud hanging over the staff room which has not been seen since they banned smoking there.”

It is quite irresponsible to use Apple in schools because the users are denied control of the device, or, to quote how Apple would like to put it: “A new patent, granted to Apple, could prevent academic cheating, cinema interruptions, but also see areas of political protest activity ‘ring-fenced’ disabling phone and tablet cameras.”

It is good that Apple has a monopoly on it as fewer companies will try to implement such hostile features (or “antifeatures”) that work against the users. Why would people want to pay for such a thing?

It is being alleged that Apple did not invent anything. Even a former Apple executive says so. To quote: “As Apple (AAPL) prepares to launch what by all accounts will be the most successful device it has ever built — and just a few weeks after the company was awarded more than $1 billion in damages when Samsung (005930) was found to have infringed on its IP — an article penned by a former Apple executive questions exactly what Apple’s role is in the consumer electronics industry. Jean-Louis Gassee, who came very close to becoming the president of Apple in the late 1980s before being ousted by CEO John Scully and Apple’s board, claims that while Apple’s success in the industry cannot be disputed, its perception as an innovator is open to discussion.”

Microsoft boosters such as Jon Brodkin latch onto the case to spread FUD against Android. This is all that the duopoly can do against Android now. Innovation was never on Apple’s side.

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