The best thing about Apple’s win over Samsung in Germany

“The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible… For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks [like the iPad].”

The above is from presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofman in her verdict.

Forget whether you think the tech world is lawsuit-happy. Forget whether you think this is a bad decision. Forget whether you think this is just Germany, and no other country will rule this way. Forget your Apple hate or Samsung/Android love. Forget all that.

Instead, remember the above quote.

It gets old seeing companies copy Apple so fully, and then claim they had no choice because there’s no other way to make whatever it is they’re making. Of course there is. We’re not talking a single function like a volume switch or camera button, but rather an entire product. If Apple used that lazy cop-out, the iPad would have been built like previous Windows tablet designs and failed miserably.

What Apple did was rethink what a tablet could be, and so could anyone else if they choose. It may then be a success or failure, but it wouldn’t be a copy. 

33 thoughts on “The best thing about Apple’s win over Samsung in Germany

  1. “And the design of iPad/Galaxy Tab -is- obvious. it’s what you get when you take a pre-iPad tablet and throw away all the things you now know you don’t need. just try it.”But this is begging the question — the only way to make an iPad like tablet is to make it iPad like!Think what COULD be done if you don’t have in mind that you are making an iPad clone. For example:- rather than going with button minimalism, go the other route — have five small buttons on each side of the device, and allow chording as an alternative input modality?- rather than a subdued bezel,go for an active bezel. This could be allowing gestures within the bezel (like Playbook) or it could be LEDs within the bezel that provide various types of feedback. I’m not talking disco-ball pulsing LEDs (though I imagine there are some users who would like that) but having programmable LEDs that could provide whatever feedback apps want. Supposed, for example, we have columns of LEDs on all sides, and corner LEDs. You could choose to have mail flash one of the LEDs when mail has arrived, and similarly for text messages. You could have one of the columns of LEDs represent your memory usage and another your CPU usage. You could have them indicate the level of network activity or file system activity. They could provide additional feedback/status when playing games. – Rather than minimalist aesthetics, go the other way. Make it more or less clear where the speaker sits with a grille there. Have fine lines in the bezel showing where the antennae are situated. Think Pompidou Center revised for this setting.The point is — without much effort, I can throw out three alternative ways to create a tablet, none of which I think are outrageous or impractical. You only HAVE to look like an iPad when your goal is not “portable computing on a letter page sized device” but is “clone an iPad”.

  2. @JohnThat’s a stretch – You’re talking one small feature (notifications) and Apple did it differently anyway.A link you’ll love John…Never have antitrust authorities encountered such an unabashed/pervasive/serial property rights scofflaw as Google –

  3. @PXLated,Yet AAPL is doing exactly the embrace and extend approach with ios5 and calling it innovation. One example, iOS5 alerts are to Android alerts what the Galaxy Tab 10 is to iPad 2. Hard to disagree, no?

  4. If anything it’s a validation that Apple’s design is the only one that actually works. The entire tablet category was a failure until Apple decided they wanted to have a go – almost a decade after everyone else. Despite having no experience in the tablet market, unlike their competitors, Apple completely trumped everyone else and designed one that people actually wanted.It’s that stake-puck analogy every time. Every single time Apple releases a hit product that wipes the floor with everything else, their competitors scramble to catch up, and in doing so end up copying Apple. If only they’d stop for just a second and think “what’s next…” and build the next hit product instead.While Samsung were busy copying the iPad 1, Apple had released the iPad 2 and was already designing iPad 3. Make no mistake – while Samsung and others are struggling to get their heads around iPad 3, Apple will have already built iPad 4 prototypes and will be thinking what iPad 5 should look like. For as long as this cycle continues, and the Samsungs of this world play catchup, Apple will always be first to market with a product that people actually want to own.

  5. Ho hum.Why can’t people get this right?The name is Samesong.Please remember this.

  6. Isn’t it really about the “totality” of the copying – right down to the minimalist packaging? You can argue about the little details but when put together, it’s obvious what they were trying to do.

  7. @matejcik- how about the border, you don’t have to design a border – afaik traditional Tablets did not have this all around border. Or if you really want this border why make it glass as well, why not have only the screen with the glass touchpanel and the border with some plastic or aluminum or some other material. And if you take a look at the back and compare it to early versions of the it’s more than clear that they wanted to look like the iPad.Furthermore – if it is that obvious why didn’t anyone else come up with it? Why did it take more than a year to finally bring those copy cats into the market. It was obvious after Apple showed it, but that’s often the case and does not make copying better.

  8. “isn’t the only solution”? okay, maybe not, but how is that design choice non-obvious? how is the patent even valid?I mean, yes, there’s much to say for Apple. They were the only ones smart enough to realize that you don’t need a bunch of buttons if you put good software on the tablet. They were the first ones to go one step further and put a capacitive screen on it. They are the ones who designed iOS and revolutionarized how we view (smartphone/tablet) apps and how we expect a mobile OS to behave.They are so far the only ones that realize 4:3 is better than 16:9, for cow’s sake! At this point, the iPad 2 simply has no reasonable competitors.But.Once you realize that your tablet needs no buttons, that it is “just a slate”, the only things you get to choose are bezel width, form factor, diameter of rounded corners and color. Except the last part, everything from the list is different on Galaxy Tab.Or do we now get to patent a laptop form factor? Keyboard plus trackpad, screen in the lid?Yes, there are other ways to make a tablet. Notion Ink Adam is a pretty good example. But that doesn’t mean that the default way, the obvious way, should be granted exclusively to anyone.And the design of iPad/Galaxy Tab -is- obvious. it’s what you get when you take a pre-iPad tablet and throw away all the things you now know you don’t need. just try it.Or are we now squabbling over the fact that they put a “home” button on the bottom? Yeah, maybe they should have placed it in the corner. For no logical purpose, just so that it, you know, looks _different_.

  9. @DavidYou say mindless consumer, does arguing about the label you put in the average consumer change the fact that most people don’t heavily research each purchase they make and when someone walks into a store wanting one product they can quite often walk out with a cheaper alternative that they think suits the same purpose, or possibly something not cheaper that they feel might be even better suited to the purpose, not everyone is fixed on one product that they cant be swayed by a shop salesman or the lure of a cheaper product!You also infer the iPad copied digital photo frames of which there are many varied designs, firstly as you seem to be the unformed or mindless individual here, I would say copying of any products tends to happen when someone has a successful product…. erm like an iPad,not impossible that Apple could have been inspired by all sorts of designs from picture frames to TV’s, but I’m sure they didn’t think wow this particular photo frame design is such a success why don’t we copy this, we are sure to have a hit, where as in all sorts of consumer success stories we see derivative copies follow and try and ride the success of the leading products, do you just not understand this? Are you really that dumb?

  10. @David – A couple of points:1) You come on the man’s blog and ask him if he thinks before he writes, just because you don’t agree with him (or the esteemed judge, whom I’m sure spent way more time researching the issue than you have)? Then you waste space talking about a typo (of a quote he already used at the top of the post) just to have something to be critical of. Crude.2) Tom explained that the informed person to whom the judge referred is one who is knowledgeable enough to know that an iPad is not a Tab, but who is not an uber-geek. The person in your “world is flat” analogy is either stupid or just gullible. Either way, the analogy doesn’t wash. But it sure makes you sound clever – to the uninformed.3) iPad looks like a digital picture frame? Really – that’s all you’ve got?Folks like you are the reason blog comment threads are the cesspools they have become. People resort to personal attacks and sarcasm instead of engaging in reasoned debate.

  11. @Brian 2 – You’re right, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about a black rectangular piece of glass, but it was a decidedly daring move to believe that masses of people would give up their QWERTY keyboards. Remember, the primary debate at the time was whether or not people would choose to type on glass.

  12. This was not a bad decision by the Germans. You know why? They value IP. They know what will happen to their own innovators should they allow such a blatant rip- off to go unnoticed.Unlike Google & Samsung, Apple doesn’t sit back to see who’s ideas they can steal in desperation for growth & profits.You on the other sound like the type that thinks everything’s in the public domain for the taking a la Google. We’ll see what Oracle has to say about that.Sorry that your disappointed that some fat ass, lazy company, couldn’t innovate but instead decided to blatantly copy an already an existing superior product. Sit down and make something great before you go around mocking someone with more class than you have.

  13. “put an end to embrace and extend”Really! You have the balls to use that phrase? Really!Microsoft killed off far more innovation then they ever created. They should have been broken up and taken to the wood shed many years before they were.Obviously, you have never ever created anything of worth. Just another droid cubicle dweller wondering what the fuss is about – punch the time clock in, punch the time clock out, sit on the couch and click your remote and whack your willey.Sorry Gibson but but you’re clueless.

  14. Sure, it is true that other designs are possible. But where would the tech industry be if we can put an end to embrace and extend which is what this ruling effectively dictates.Add to that, how far can you take it… In many ways the changes in ios5 such as notifications are copies from other OS and honestly there is nothing wrong with that just as there shouldn’t be anything wrong with other manufacturers producing minimalist tablet.

  15. It’s not just about the shape, it’s about the totality of the copying including the packaging, icons, etc. – Get over it android lovers, Google and their manufacturer partners have infringed everything they’ve done since their first clue – page-rank. They’re a one trick pony intellectually, get used to it.I know it’s hard 🙂

  16. Funny how Apple aesthetic is very Japanese and Northern european alike. But neither Northern european nor Japanese companies care about that aesthetic deeply. Many people calls it beautiful, but it is really just functional.… And good design is mostly about functionality.

  17. @TomDo you think before you write ?”An informed custom is one who knows of the iPad, seen it in ads, and knows they want one”. ( I assume you meant customer , but you probably should have used the words mindless consumer as this is what you are describing).Telling someone that the world is flat doesn’t make them informed, it means they received a false piece of information.Has anyone noticed how similar the ipad look is to most digital picture frames that have been out for the best part of the 21st century, who really is copying who ?.As far as the rest of the world following Germany’s lead, well that won’t happen because the German injunction is based on a flawed piece of EEC design law and the courts screwed up, yes the almighty Germans tried to apply their injunction across the EEC which they didn’t have the power to do. Germany has exceeded the bounds of EEC laws so ‘what happens in Germany stays in Germany’.

  18. You really believe Apple could have scrambled a “copy” of it in 3 months that also surprisingly was a revolutionary product with an all-new OS X derivation and a new UI paradigm?No, and that’s the point. A thin black round rectangle is not an amazingly innovative design that only Apple or LG is capable of coming up with.

  19. > informedThe uninformed customer thinks the counterfeit IS an iPad. The informed customer thinks the counterfeit only looks like an iPad. It is an old joke in tech circles to compare a company’s pre- and post- iPad tablets. Samsung has been making tablets for a decade, and none of the previous ones looked anything at all like iPad. Replacing the pen touch with finger touch and even making them smaller with modern components does not necessitate using the iPad’s corner angles and bevel edges and finishes and colors and dimensions.For years, Bill Gates defended stealing the Mac UI by saying that is the only possible way to make a graphical computer. Then iPhone did an entirely different graphical computer and proved him wrong. Microsoft did phones for years, somehow never noticed phones are controlled with fingers and buttons, they were too busy putting windows, icons, menus, and a pointer on a phone. Huge missed opportunity for them while Apple was rebuilding and focused on the Mac, because of a lack of imagination and lack of applied design.

  20. She says that it looks like an iPad to the informed consumer, not that the informed consumer would confuse it with an iPad.

  21. @beanie The “Prada argument” again? You really believe Apple could have scrambled a “copy” of it in 3 months that also surprisingly was a revolutionary product with an all-new OS X derivation and a new UI paradigm?Come on. You either spewed that out without thinking, or you are just a troll.PS: I just went out to refresh my mental picture of the LG Prada, and I stumbled upon an Engadget preview. The comments were filled with deluded people thinking it would be a worthy competitor to the then-unreleased iPhone. Hilarious.

  22. @beanieRe: Prada – in december 2006 LG was announced deal with Prada to design new phone and later in late January they showed desing of LG Prada for the first time and this happen after iPhone introduction… They started selling these in April afair.

  23. @beanie – The LG Prada only appeared in photos about a month before the iPhone was announced. The Prada was actually released months before the iPhone, but in terms of stealing the design, It’s possible, but unlikely Apple copied it. I looked up a few images out of curiosity and it’s interesting to note the LG Prada has more in common with the iPhone 4 than the original iPhone.

  24. @beanieRe: Prada – in december 2006 LG was announced deal with Prada to design new phone and later in late January they showed desing of LG Prada for the first time and this happen after iPhone introduction… They started selling these in April afair.

  25. beanie, He doesn’t say for the informed geek, which is really what you’re referring to. An informed custom is one who knows of the iPad, seen it in ads, and knows they want one. They’re not geeks, however, and certainly not wary of very close imitators. To them, the Samsung product looks like it, which it does because that’s exactly how Samsung designed it.

  26. “For the informed customer”Shouldn’t that be uninformed? An informed person would not make the mistake of thinking Tab is an iPad.Tablets looks comes from touchscreen smartphones or maybe even laptop screens with no keyboard or maybe televisions screens. Galaxy Tab is wide screen while iPad is 3:4 ratio. Also, Galaxy Tab seems to have no openings in front, which gives it an even more minimalistic look than iPad. iPad has a distinctive speaker opening at front bottom.Speaking of design. Samsung probably has dozens or maybe even hundreds of touchscreen phones with different designs while Apple has released 4 phones.Back in 2006, LG Prada showed off a touch screen phone before iPhone was shown in 2007. Interesting how similar the designs were. Either Apple copied from Prada or both came out with similar designs.

  27. “but none of them are better”Yep – Houston, We Have a Problem

  28. Unfortunately, for Samsung, and other Android OEMs, there is not a better way to build a tablet- until Apple designs it. There may be other ways, but none of them are better.

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