Home > Uncategorized > Worm In The Apple

Worm In The Apple

Imagine a world where a washing machine manufacturer sues another for making another product that washes clothes. Imagine a world where only one company is allowed to make a device that heats bread, and if anyone else does, then they’re forbidden to call it a toaster. Imagine if one television manufacturer was so scared of competition that they sued everybody else for using similar parts.

That’s the world that already exists for the smartphone market. Apple, despite having more money than much of the developing world, isn’t happy with how much money it has and wants to make even more. How’s it going to achieve this? By forcing everyone else out of the market by suing them for making vaguely similar products. It’s basically the bully in the school playground, presenting a brash and confident exterior but hiding an insecure interior that’s afraid someone else is going to show them up.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Apple vs. Samsung case, but if not, here’s a quick rundown. Apple recently won a court case claiming that Samsung have been violating its patents. Some of these patents include things as wildly innovative as tapping to zoom in on something. Yes, Apple are basically the pedantic, self-absorbed arseholes I’ve always suspected them to be.

I own a Samsung phone, and I’ve seen the features of the iPhone, and I can safely say they are indeed similar. You see, they’re both phones with Internet capabilities, and have large icons that act as changeable buttons since they both use a touch screen. You also slide across the screen to scroll and tap to zoom. Damn it, you’re right, they’re so similar that every single Android phone is clearly a massive rip-off!

Except they’re not. You see, unbeknownst to Apple, there are things known as industry standards. Some people create them, they become part of the market, and other similar products follow that example. Sure, people innovate and come up with new products. And yes, there will be copycat products entering the market. But to call every other smartphone that uses some very generic, very basic aspects that the iPhone does is like saying that Apple should also start suing Microsoft because they also use mouse cursors. Oh crap, I just gave them an idea, forget I said anything.

Suing someone for a graphic interface is absurd because by the very definition of how people use smartphones, it makes sense to have apps represented in the form of large icons, grouped for easy access. It’s a touch screen, so large icons are a necessity. Organising them neatly into clear rows and columns also makes sense so you can actually find stuff. To do the graphic interface differently in any major way just makes things awkward. It’s simply common sense to arrange apps this way. And yet Apple are trying to claim they own common sense.

Maybe I’m being harsh on Apple and the way they do things. After all, they’ve attracted a large, rabid, cult-like following for their fancy toys, so they must have done something right. Let’s see what their “visionary” leader Steve Jobs (RIP) had to say about stealing ideas.

Oh. Well. OK. Hmm. This is awkward.

You see, Apple freely admitted to stealing the entire interface for the earliest Macintosh from Xerox’s Alto computer. Yes, Steve Jobs himself admitted he took someone else’s idea and built on it. Essentially, they did the thing that makes any creative industry thrive, whether it’s in the arts or tech. They took ideas that have been successful before and utilised those ideas in their own product. Did Xerox own a patent on the GUI? Almost certainly. Did they sue Apple for using it? Not at all.

What’s more, a big chunk of what made the Mac successful, and indeed Windows, which also took the GUI ideas, is that they provided an easy-to-use interface for computers than was available with the Xerox computer. They may well have been shameless rip-offs, but both Apple and Microsoft built on those ideas that Xerox created and put their own spin on things. Which, funnily enough, is what Google and Samsung have done with the Galaxy phones that Apple are so fervently against.

Android is not iOS. Sure, they’re similar, but they are doing the same job, so similarities will occur. If Samsung were using the same icons as the iPhone, then Apple may have had a real case. However, they are not the same. The icons are smaller on Android. There’s a whopping great Google search bar on Android. There are multiple home menu pages where the iPhone has one. It’s not as possible to group apps as on the iPhone. There are enough differences to suggest that while the idea may have been inspired by Apple, it shouldn’t be considered a patent-infringing issue.

Not to mention that Android was the system that developed the pull-down notifications, which Apple themselves shamelessly stole. But let’s ignore that, it’s not important.

Sadly, it seems that this is how the courts felt, since they seemed uninteresting in seeing evidence from Samsung that countered Apple’s claims, including evidence that the very design of the iPhone was based heavily on a Sony prototype, and therefore Apple don’t really have that much of a claim on it.

However, I wonder how differently this case could have gone if Apple had targeted the makers of the Android software itself, especially since many of the patents are software based. I don’t see Apple trying to see Google for anything, not even for that pesky predictive text search patent they claim to own, even though Google search does it too, as does Youtube who are, of course, again, owned by Google.

Perhaps it’s because Google have the same legal force behind them that Apple does and my bully analogy stands strong. Apple won’t stand up to Android directly because that involves facing off against another industry giant. It’d be like that playground bully trying to beat up that new kid who goes to karate classes.

Of course, anyone thinking this is the end of it, that Apple have merely recognised a competitor that has blatantly ripped them off and ignoring everyone else, then you’d be wrong. They’re targeting HTC next. And it probably won’t stop until they’re staring down Microsoft and Google in a Mexican standoff. Except it’s difficult to know who’s Good, Bad or Ugly in that one.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 29, 2012 at 1:54 am

    I’m not sure how truthful this is, but in that TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, Apple was depicted as stealing the Mac GUI from Xerox… that’s true enough. But then when Microsoft did the same with their Windows, Steve Jobs threw a hissy fit and insisted that Microsoft was dirty and sleazy for having stole from them.

    • August 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised. This is after all the same man who can say he’s shameless about stealing but then turns round and says he wants to sue Android into the ground just for daring to make a rival smartphone OS. It’s also kind of funny that Apple are going after Samsung for making similar products, but considering that Samsung make many components for iPhones, what were they expecting?

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