Monday, August 27, 2012

Apple, Samsung and 1 Billion Reasons to Consider

The much awaited Apple-Samsung case in the US has reached a verdict, and Samsung has to pay over 1 billion dollars. As expected, people from both sides have began to throw arguments saying that justice has/has not been served.

From Apple's side Tim Cook said that is a big win for Apple and that shows that people shouldn't copy Apple; while on the other side Samsung says that it's sad when a company has to abuse patent laws to stop their competitors.

Some even turn it into a win for Samsung, saying this is the best publicity Samsung could ever get, and that 1 billion is a small price to pay to become the 2nd biggest mobile company in the world; and let's not forget that the jury's decision should even help overturn the injuction on the Galaxy Tab (as the jury found that Galaxy Tab didn't copy the iPad).

I think that the truth is a bit more complicated than just saying who copied who/what, and who is entitled to have the patent on things such as pinch-to-zoom, douple tap-zooms, screen rotation, and the likes...

Sure, the iPhone did make a big splash when it was introduced, and finally brought us something we had been waiting for over a decade. But, that didn't happen "by chance", and - something that seems to be forgotten by some Apple fans - there were already a lot of touchscreen devices with few physical buttons on the market!

Sure, they used resisitve touchscreens, and had stylus, and the windows mobile standard interface was... horrible (having basically the same elements of a desktop user interface). But there were a lot of apps back then that were pushing it in the right direction, replacing the main user screen with finger friendlier icons for touch operation.

So... while we have to thank Apple for doing much of what they did with the iPhone... let's not forget what was already going on.

The iPhone also had the "luck" of popping up at the right time... Back in those days, mobile data was really exepensive (at least here in Portugal), and... you couldn't really call it "internet" as you tried to browse the web in "2G" speeds. It's was really unbearable.
(Let's not forget either that the first iPhone was 2G only... and at launch, Apple didn't even had an App Store nor did they support 3rd party Apps! It's easy to forget those things... right?)

With the iPhone 3G, Apple finally nailed it, and by then we got one of the first touch-friendly pocket computers we so much longed for. It was kind of a "perfect storm" of events that came together to make it possible: the current technology was there, 3G speeds were there, and the right interface for a touchscreen was also there.
(I still can't figure out why Microsoft, having the lead on "pocket PC" and "Windows Mobile devices" for years, never took the time to take it to the next level... All they needed was to ditch the stylus/pointer oriented interface... and they had a long time to do it!)

So... it might be wrong to "copy" others... but both Apple and Microsoft copied the WIMP interface they use on the desktop operating systems - would the world be a better place if by then they also had to battle their way through the courts, so they could use each and every tiny element someone else had come up with?

Should patents really be used to lock down things as an elastic bouncing scroll list, or a push to reload action, or a screen rotation based on the device orientation? I don't think so... but if they do, they should at least have an expiration date more compatible to the speed of the modern world, say... 1 year, or 2 at most.

Let users decide what they want to buy... and not the courts deciding what they can buy.

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