Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Apple sues Samsung - Samsung sues Apple, hilarity ensues...

Oh the hilarity. It seems like the mobile tech world is just rife with stupidity and lawsuits. This is pretty much how lazy companies prosper and how competent companies stay relevant.

Apple just recently filed a lawsuit against Samsung for their Galaxy S cell phone line that includes not only the base model and the unique American carrier offerings, but also the Galaxy Tab and the Nexus S. The first thing that strikes me as odd is the fact that this lawsuit is coming right before Samsung releases the Galaxy S II line, the successor to the first in much of Europe and Asia and about a year or so after the release of the original Galaxy S.

The lawsuit goes on to describe the Galaxy S infringing upon the overall appearance of the iPhone, particularly in the UI department, but also pertaining to just the overall shape and buttons on the phone. First off, I have a hard time seeing the hardware copying here. Yes the base model Galaxy S does indeed have a single home button on it....surrounded by two other buttons on each side of it. There's also that big old Samsung logo on it, so there's no confusing this with an iPhone. Now Touchwiz, yes, it's a shameless imitation of iOS. Depressingly so, in fact. Considering that Touchwiz 2 (Touchwiz 3 is the iOS look-a-like) looks and behaves nothing like the iPhone, it makes me wonder why Samsung would take this route.

However, the most telling thing of this lawsuit is that they included the Galaxy Tab and Nexus S in the lawsuit. Unless there is some underlying tech element I haven't read up on, the Galaxy Tab bears almost nothing in common with the iPad or the iPhone. More importantly, is the Nexus S aka my phone, in this lawsuit. For the record, the Nexus S is extremely uniquely designed in comparison to any of its Galaxy S cousins and runs stock Android. There is absolutely no way you could confuse a Nexus S for an iPhone.

What does all this tell me? Apple is flanking Google. Plain and simple, they're getting ready to go after Google for Android.  Apple has already went after HTC and Motorola for various phones that they say violate their patents. Each case cites different patents, a certainly odd maneuver, but painfully obvious. Apple knows they can't go after Google directly. They lost the "look and feel" lawsuit with Microsoft and they've been bitter about it ever since. So instead, they are targeting the rest of the Open Handset Alliance. They figure if they put enough holes in the manufacturers, they'll bail from the whole Android scene. Problem is, these companies are also billion dollar corporations.

So, obviously, Samsung retaliated with their own suit. Their lawsuit claims they infringe on ten different patents. I don't know about HTC, but Motorola is one of the forerunners to cell phones at all. I know they're packing a shit ton of patents. These are electronic giants, not fly-by-night companies that will back down and pay whatever you ask. Plus the way I understand it, Samsung may have a few edges in this case. One is a lawsuit Apple lost to a company called Meizu whose phone looked nearly identical to the iPhone and the other is the Samsung F700 which was coming out at the same time as the iPhone. Either way, Apple has a long journey on these suits and the companies aren't going to back down so easily. Combine that with the fact that the Oracle vs. Google (aka the elephant in the room) case may be wrapping up sooner than anticipated thanks to a recent statement by the judge presiding over it and Android may be coming out on top in the future.

Either way, Google has the money to defend itself against Apple. It also helps that the people in general like Android. Shutting down an OS that is installed on over 30 million handsets and growing is no easy feat. Worst case scenario is settlements and payouts, but even then Apple is just going to have to get used to the fact that the iPhone isn't the top dog OS (not that it ever was, that distinction goes to RIM and Nokia, but Apple doesn't know any better).

My take? Apple is trying to stay relevant (hence the second sentence of this post). They've had to delay the iPhone 5 for a few months longer than they would like and need to remain a presence in everyone's minds. In the tech world today, a few months can spell success or failure. Apple will still be around, but their potential dominance in the mobile market will be in jeopardy which is why they are mounting the offensive against the OHA. Either way, it's hilarious to watch Android vs. Apple fans fight over it, ridiculous lawsuits get filed on overly vague patents, and multibillion dollar companies crying about things rather than continuing to push the envelope in innovation. At the same time, it's pretty depressing the state of affairs, especially with the patent office since if their were some reform and restructuring, these type of lawsuits would go away.