Right now Apple’s iPhone is trailing behind the same companies they are waging war against, yet their legal team continues to use the tired claim of “slavish copying”. Apple fans will not even see LTE and NFC until late this year (2012); both are technologies that other phones (Windows Phone, Android and even Blackberry) have enjoyed for some time now. Apple is also moving to a larger screen and dropping in more RAM, again something that Samsung, Motorola, HTC… well you get the picture by now. In the past Apple has been able to get around their lack of current features though clever marketing and the presence of Steve Jobs (anyone remember being told that Apple would bring out Copy and Paste when it was the “right time” for it?). With Tim Cook you do not have the same presence so missing or improperly labeled (4G anyone?) items leap out and the consumer and are quickly complained about.
Apple knows this which is why we are going to see an even greater tendency to abuse the patent system as they strive to compete with the rest of the market that has passed them up technologically. It is true that Android was not a polished OS until 4.0 and still has a way to go as Google works to offers a more polished yet open operating system for mobile devices. The phones and Tablets that Android run on are another story completely. They are far superior in terms of hardware specification with the possible exception of the retina display and in some cases the GPUs used. However, when you put them side-by-side with a phone like the Galaxy SII or Galaxy Nexus the displays and frame rates appear identical for games and video playback so we are not sure if those items help or hurt Apple here.
We have followed reports of iOS 6 and so far they have not impressed that many people. Most of the users that we spoke to about it say they do not notice a difference in performance and there are very few features that make the upgrade worth the time to get it done.
This means that the iPhone 5 (or whatever they call it), at launch, will be at the point that most Android phones were about two years ago. This is not a good position for a company that has made repeated statements that they are tired of innovating for the rest of the world. Apple is laboring under the failing strategy of “if we say it, it makes it true” (Microsoft is also trying this now…). The sad part for Apple is that the consumer market is waking up to this. After a number of statements made by Apple have been found to be… less than honest, they are starting to doubt the marketing hype and read behind the statements.
This leave one area for Apple to compete in, patents. They know that the US system is very malleable and that most judges in the US are not technically savvy enough to identify differences in technologies (some cannot even tell the difference in two different sized products…). There is also a tendency in US courts not to invalidate patents when they should be. Often broad patents or ones that are obvious or that have clear prior art are upheld when they should not be. Again Apple knows this and seems to feel that if they continue to cry foul loud enough they will get their way. It is a strategy that has worked for them so far. Now… well let’s just say that they have patented something so obvious and with so much Prior art that if it stands in court it will show exactly what a joke the US legal and Patent System has become to the rest of the world. We are talking about patent number 8223134 which relates to “Portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents,”.
Apple filed for this one back in May of this year and it was granted with record speed (on the 17th of this month). The fact of the matter is that Apple has patented the list; a basic tool that has been used in devices since the Palm and Axiom. This is another case where Apple has been granted a patent that it never should have. Some Apple sites are claiming that Apple invented this, however a quick look at even the patent application shows that Apple borrowed from research that IBM did as far back as 1999. A quick search through the patent files yielded multiple similar patents from Palm and even Microsoft going back to 2004 for Windows Mobile). We would love to tell the USP&TO along with all of the judges and politicians that giving Apple a pass will not bring manufacturing or warehousing back to the US. All they are doing at this point is hurting the consumer in the US and making the country look like idiots to the rest of the world. How much longer will we have to wait until someone calls Apple on this like they did with Rambus? Considering that Apple has just been awarded a patent on OpenCL which is an OPEN standard that Apple submitted (hmmm isn’t Apple complaining about people using standards against them…) we hope that it is very soon or who knows how much damage they will do.
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