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Mac Planet: Samsung Smarting

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Legions of Samsung fans will no doubt be smarting that the case showed their favourite company has essentially been repackaging Apple products for the Android operating system. Photo / File
Legions of Samsung fans will no doubt be smarting that the case showed their favourite company has essentially been repackaging Apple products for the Android operating system. Photo / File

So, it's settled - financially if not ideologically. Legions of Samsung fans will no doubt be smarting that the case showed their favourite company has essentially been repackaging Apple products for the Android operating system. These fans will bang on about the freedom of ideas, Apple's 'walled garden', and about the beloved (and mostly spurious) 'freedom' to tinker with their own devices and apps that Apple denies them - and which most actual users couldn't care less about.

The thing about a walled garden is, it's a garden. Gardens are nice. The wall stops the sheep getting in and eating everything.

I suspect Samsung fans' deeply-felt true love really stems from the fact that they couldn't or wouldn't afford Apple products. Luckily Samsung (among others) repackaged them into cheaper devices that were so Apple-like, they could be happy with a smart device sans the annoying Apple-with-a-bite-out logo. In their defence they took on ideas that usually not their own, like: Apple isn't really the leader, Apple just copies anyway, Apple is for style junkies with no techno-savvy.

(I accept this might be a cynical view of mine.)

Anyway, the dust is still settling. Apple won. Convincingly, if not universally in the court of human understanding, then at least in the federal court in the US. This is where, in America and in the tech industry anyway, it matters most, and justice was delivered by the US District Court of San José in the way that matters most: without a prison sentence, but with a massive payout.

The final figure awarded to Apple was over a billion - US$1,049,393,540.00. That's NZ$1,293,662,973: a fairly telling rebuke of Samsung's design and manufacturing process which may force the company toward more, let's say, original ideas. Or at least some more native R&D.

And you might think Apple is celebrating, but it was seeking US$2.75 billion in damages.

The jury checked off Samsung items, identifying elements owed to Apple - it's a pretty comprehensive list, with damages awarded by device.

I guess there could be a suspicion in some minds that things could not be 'as fair', anyway, when a foreign company was being taken to court near the heartland of a very American company. But the industry and the judiciary would reject this charge - certainly due process was well documented.

And some don't even think Apple should have been suing at all, pretending rather facetiously that copying is, effectively, 'real competition'. They say Apple sues because it wants to control the market, overcharge for its products, exclude competitors or punish competitors all as signifiers of Apple's purported "quest for global tech domination".
To my mind, Apple makes stuff, using great ideas from everywhere, mostly paying due diligence to where those ideas come from. It invests huge R&D resources to make those products great, so everyone emulates them as close to the bone as possible.

And Apple has been caught out too. Those who accuse Apple of abusing the patent system would do well to remember the Nokia settlement: last year, Apple and Nokia settled an IP 'misunderstanding' in Nokia's favour. As a result, Apple paid Nokia more than US$600 million plus an estimated US$11.50 per iPhone sold. Amusingly, observers speculate that Nokia has made more money from these IP arrangements than from selling its own Lumia smartphones. This was mentioned in an article edited by a former Apple CEO, J L Gassée, which discusses whether the settlement will lead to more expensive smartphones generally. Presumably, if all those Samsung phones want to carry on carrying Apple IP, they'll be paying a fee, so your iPhone copies won't be as cheap as before. Sucks to be you.

And sure, sometimes Apple goes too far. I still laugh when I see the Woolworth/Countdown logo of a cabbagy-broccoli thing that Apple maintained looked like the Apple logo a couple of years ago.

But as the trial progressed, it did seem Samsung was starting to clutch at straws, perhaps realising things weren't going their way. One argument Samsung tried was that Apple had copied Sony's design for the Walkman as inspiration for the iPhone as a way to justify Samsung's own smartphone copying tactics. The argument was based on a prototype iPhone mockup by Shin Nishibori created in 2006 that was supposed to look like an iPhone that Sony would make. Apple then released sketches of a near-final iPhone design that pre-dated Nishibori's CAD drawings by almost a year ... ouch. To make matters worse, Sony designers then said the Nishibori prototype was influenced by the iPod. Oucher.

Crikey, even Samsung's own research showed customers couldn't differentiate between a Galaxy Tab 10 tablet and an iPad. More pointedly, Reuters reported ten months ago that Samsung's lawyers told a federal judge that even they could not tell the difference between an iPad and a Galaxy Tab 10.1. Read more here.

In Sydney, a Samsung Experience store was erected around the corner from an Apple Store. Samsung's looks like an Apple Store, and the staff are dressed like Apple staff. It has similar big glass walls, wooden product tables with open layouts and a minimalist design.

The store looks a lot like the inside of the Apple Store that's just a short walk away, yet Samsung, true to form, swore it didn't copy Apple this time, or even look at what Apple was doing in the retail space. Presumably they also believe men did not walk on the moon and there's no global warming. Look at the pictures.

Of course, Samsung has been countersuing for patent infringement. The complex case included several claims by Samsung that Apple had infringed on its patents ... but the jury found none of Samsung's claims to be valid.

As noted, Apple has transgressed before and been caught out, then paid out where applicable. Apple products have, and will most likely continue, to use Samsung components, since trade is trade and both companies hew to that very well. Also, and woundingly I presume, Samsung seems to be full of Apple fans whereas I'd be surprise if the reverse phenomenon exists: Apple submitted into evidence in the week of August 11th a 132-page, internal Samsung "Relative Evaluation Report" dated March 2, 2010.
The report shows well over 100 functions of the 2010 iPhone rating them favourably to comparable functions in the Samsung Galaxy S.

It then summarised directions for how Samsung could do that function better.

Anyway, Apple fans can feel vindicated. As I do.


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