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Apple Watch: Beating Apple

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Photo / AP
Photo / AP

Apple has always been known for its culture of secrecy, although it gives away subtle hints in its declarations of upcoming events. The minimal, sparsely-worded invitations and announcements - even to WWDC - get picked apart for whatever subtle clues Apple might be revealing about forthcoming announcements, but often they only really make sense in hindsight.

And so it is that the stoush between Apple and Samsung, for a second time before the Californian court, has made public some emails that have offered all sorts of interesting tidbits into Apple's aims and objectives, and even to its sometimes emotional response to events that, on the public surface anyway, would barely be acknowledged.

In documents that have come to light as part of Apple and Samsung's second California trial, the Wall Street Journal drew attention to an October 2010 email from Jobs, in anticipation of Apple's Top 100 retreat, in which he categorised Apple's battle with Google as a 'Holy War'.

The Top 100 retreat is, apparently, an occasional gathering of the 100 employees Apple would keep if it supposedly had to start over, which sounds a bit dystopian.

Again in 2010, Apple's thoughts on the future of products were being chewed over, with insights into what Apple's product roadmap looked like back then. It also revealed that keeping tabs on Android remained a top priority. A Steve Jobs email unearthed by The Verge had hints at subscriptions for Apple TV, apps, and a 'magic wand'.

Others reveal how importantly Apple takes its competition. In 2011, Jobs was pointing out areas in which Android had surpassed iOS and how the Apple planned to catch up or, in the case of Siri, 'leapfrog them'. It also looks like iCloud was directly related to Google's perceived advantage in cloud services (iCloud was still called MobileMe back then). This missive is at 9to5Mac.

Other correspondence indicates the cool, calm and collected Phil Schiller (Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing) sometimes isn't. Schiller was so shaken up by Samsung's 'Next Big Thing' ad campaign, he forwarded a Wall Street Journal article to Apple's ad agency, and was then furious with the agency's somewhat defensive response.

It goes both ways, of course. Other documents revealed by the second Apple vs Samsung patent trial also offer a glimpse into Samsung's Seoul boardroom. A slide from a Samsung business forecast from 2011 shows the company viewing 'beating Apple' as its number one priority for 2012.

That these company's want to beat each other is part of the point of modern commerce, of course. It's just interesting to see it so explicitly. Samsung attorneys in turn showed the jury an internal Apple email which demonstrates the company was keenly aware that maintaining iPhone growth going forward was fraught with challenges. (I do find it interesting that nobody seems to ask how Samsung gets, or got, internal Apple emails.)

According to Ina Fried at Re/Code, the email in question was penned in 2014 by a member of Apple's sales team and reads in part 'Competitors have drastically improved their hardware and in some cases their ecosystems.' The email expresses that much of the growth in the smartphone market was coming from sub-US$300 devices and from larger screened devices. Needless to say, these are two areas wherein Apple has not, so far, been represented.

What I get from this is that Apple is, despite appearances, influenced quite directly by the market in which it has to operate, which in turn means that any 'iPhone 6' may well have a larger screen. To me, that still seems like a bad idea, simply because I don't have massive pockets in all my clothes. However, I am well aware many have greater pockets than me and also, perhaps, many desire a single device that covers all the ground between a smartphone and a tablet, rather than having to have both.

The Re/Code data is also, by the way, linked at TUAW, but the TUAW link also contains the interesting tidbit that Tim Cook and Apple is worried about 'getting it right' when it comes to a larger iPhone - specifically, dealing with the reduced battery life that most larger-screened smartphone entail.

Other interesting information shows that when Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone, he took time to highlight what was then the current state of the smartphone market. In short, Jobs said that phones at the time were either easy to use and not very powerful, or powerful but extremely confusing to use.

The iPhone, Jobs promised, would be both easy to use and powerful. Apple has always been about producing technology that's more intuitive, inviting, and easier to use than anything else, so this is completely logical.

Which kind of brings the 'wearable tech' debate into question, too. A report mentioned in the Guardian finds fully a third of wearable device buyers no longer wear - or use - them after six months. That's so much high-tech landfill in pretty short order.

Apple would have to get an 'iWatch' exactly right. Apple did with the phone - I can't, simply can't, leave my house without it. I not only feel lost, I would probably get lost.

While testifying last week during the Apple and Samsung trial, Apple engineer Greg Christie, who was part of the iPhone team since inception, talked about the underlying philosophy that permeates Apple's engineering efforts.

All of this is serious stuff, of course, and goes some way to explaining why Apple takes the Samsung case (and Google) so seriously. iPhone is a dramatically important part of the Apple pie (a reference to the pie chart on the TUAW link). During Apple's most recent holiday quarter, 56.3 per cent of Apple's revenue came from iPhone while just 11.1 per cent came from Mac sales.

All will be revealed, no doubt, this June.

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