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. 

TVs Are Not Like Smartphones

Yes, there are a lot of problems that need to be solved, but the Macalope doesn’t really see where they’re that much bigger than the ones that supposedly were going to prevent the iPhone’s birth. Maybe it comes out for Comcast at first, like the iPhone with AT&T.

The AT&T iPhone was nationwide in the US, and used a global mobile standard (GSM) so Apple could roll it out in other countries. A Comcast “iTV” would only be regional in the US, and there is no global TV standard so that’s as far as it would get.

The carrier problem was one of control (i.e., dictating hardware, features and services), not getting to market. Apple got around the control with an AT&T exclusivity deal (and AT&T making a bold decision), and the rest is history.

The cable company problem is not about control of the hardware, but rather getting it to market. One GSM iPhone covers many markets across the globe, but for an iTV you’d need nearly as many models as there are markets.

I’m not saying the cable company issue is insurmountable, only that it won’t be solved the way the carrier problem was. They’re not the same problem.

Apple’s FRAND patent counterclaims against Samsung and Motorola

By contrast, Samsung and Motorola try to shut Apple’s products down on the basis of allegedly standards-essential patents, seeking injunctions and (in MMI’s case) an ITC import ban regardless of whether Apple might be willing to pay FRAND royalties. Contrary to making a clear distinction as Nokia did, Samsung and Motorola simply lump standards-related and unencumbered patents together as if all patents were the same.

Interesting read about Apple’s claims that Samsung and Motorola are abusing their FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) patents.

Especially interesting when you consider that Nokia rightly drew a distinction between the two kinds of patents, and Apple settled with them.

Ideas, Not Hierarchy: On Steve Jobs Supposedly Making All Apple Decisions

I’ve read more than a few articles since Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO that question how Apple will perform without him there to call all the shots. It reminded me of a conversation he had with Walt Mossberg at the D8 conference (starting at around the 1-hour mark). He was asked what a typical work day for him would be like: 

Jobs: What I do all day is meet with teams of people and work on ideas and solve problems to make new products, to make new marketing programs, whatever it is. 

Mossberg: And are people willing to tell you you’re wrong? 

Jobs: (laughs) Yeah.

Mossberg: I mean, other than snarky journalists, I mean people that work for…

Jobs: Oh, yeah, no we have wonderful arguments.

Mossberg: And do you win them all? 

Jobs: Oh no I wish I did. No, you see you can’t. If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to, you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay. 

Mossberg: But you must be more than a facilitator who runs meetings. You obviously contribute your own ideas. 

Jobs: I contribute ideas, sure. Why would I be there if I didn’t? 

I love the last line. Jobs says it so matter of factly, as if it’s obvious. And it is, to him. But for many people it’s not, they think Jobs is there because he’s Jobs. Period. Yet from his answer you can see that in his mind he’s there because he’s another of the “great people” working at Apple and helping make the decisions about which ideas are best. 

No one denies that the Apple executive team is brilliant, yet it seems many are willing to believe they’re just puppets. I’d argue the two are mutually exclusive. Jobs is right, brilliant people won’t stand for the best idea consistently losing. They’ll leave. I think there’s a reason for this management team’s relative longevity. They like making consistent winners, not being shouted down by seniority or politics and producing failures. 

The Answer Is No.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab:

Sales not as fast as expected… a Samsung executive revealed those figures don’t represent actual sales to consumers. Instead, they are the number of Galaxy Tab devices that Samsung has shipped to wireless companies and retailers

HP Touchpad

According to one source who’s seen internal HP reports, Best Buy has taken delivery of 270,000 TouchPads and has so far managed to sell only 25,000, or less than 10 percent of the units in its inventory.

RIM PlayBook

RIM has quietly cut its sales expectations for the BlackBerry PlayBook after its disappointing sales from the spring

Motorola Xoom

New estimates for sales of Motorola’s Xoom tablet–available since late February–are in, but even the most optimistic predictions are scarily small and pale next to the iPad 2’s first-weekend sales numbers.

Google and Motorola’s Patents [UPDATED]

The problem, of course, is that if Motorola had a savior set of patents, it wouldn’t have been one of the first targets of Microsoft. And if Motorola’s patent portfolio were really that dangerous, Apple would have settled quickly, not dragged out patent countersuits of its own. Apple settled with Nokia pretty quickly…

Everyone’s talking about the number of patents (17,000, with more in review), but not about what they cover. I suspect few of Motorola’s patents relate to modern smartphone technology or UI because Motorola hasn’t been making them for long, and they use Android.

If Motorola’s patents haven’t worried Microsoft or Apple up to now, it doesn’t change much that they’re now in Google’s possession.

[UPDATE:] This post today re-iterates my point: 

Motorola Mobility’s portfolio has failed to deter, and it has so far failed to make any meaningful headway in litigation. Motorola Mobility is on the losing track against the very two companies Google says those patents will provide protection from.

RIM Publishes Non-Denial Denial.

Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years. During that time, RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple.

Above is the full statement from RIM Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.

Sounds harsh, yet nowhere in that torrent of words do they deny the Blackberry Bold has a death grip issue. Good thing, too, because it most certainly has one.

I have an iPhone 4 and can reproduce the death grip; once I knew how to hold it, it was easy. But I also own a BlackBerry Bold 9700. Guess what? Now that I know how to hold it, I can reproduce the issue with it, too. In fact, my tweet about it came many hours before the Co-CEOs published their non-denial denial. 

But what about the Bold owners who swear they can’t reproduce it? I guess we pay as much attention to them as the iPhone 4 owners who say they can’t reproduce it, either. Fair’s fair, right? I’d like to point out that I’ve never dropped a call on my iPhone 4 or Bold, both sans cases, so the real world counts for something.

It’s a shame that even with two CEOs RIM weren’t smart enough to let this go, choosing instead to get all puffed up while not even denying what they presumably got puffed up about in the first place.

Meanwhile, the reason RIM “has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4” is because Blackberrys are relics from a half-decade ago. The most “innovative” thing RIM’s tried to do in five years is add a touch-screen to a track-ball based OS, and they failed miserably. Both times. This is why they’ve been giving their phones away—buy one, get one free—for nearly a year. 

The good news for RIM is that people are so disinterested in their out-of-touch (pun intended) relic that the Bold won’t get near the attention Apple’s innovative iPhone has. This is one time where RIM’s inferior product will actually help them.