Apple and Samsung: You Can't Make This Stuff Up
The Apple v Samsung patent battle is the gift that keeps on giving. It's right up there with the landing of Curiosity on Mars and Usain Bolt's amazing Olympics performances on my short list of things to watch this summer.
My favorite trial moment so far: Apple veep Phil Schiller's admission that when the iPhone came out, Apple didn't need to spend any money on marketing because the press and blogosphere were doing such a fine job of promoting it all by themselves.
The media is obsessed with all things Apple? I am shocked -- shocked -- to discover this. (In related news: More than 100,000 Apple fanboys are trying to dumping their old iPhones on eBay because they caught the whiff of a rumor that the iPhone 5 is being announced on September 12.)
Then Apple filed a motion saying because Samsung released this information, the judge should send the jury home and declare Apple the winner of the case and, like, the totally coolest company of all time. Fortunately the judge didn't go for that, though she did verbally spank Samsung legal beagle John Quinn.
Thanks to this trial, we've snuck a peek at dozens of early iPhone and iPad prototypes, including curved and hexagonal-shaped models. (Sadly, none were shaped like a Hello Kitty doll.) And we learned that Apple considered building its own car. What stopped the company? My guess is it couldn't figure out a way to force people to park the thing in iTunes-compatible driveways.
Meanwhile comes news from down under that the court in a different Apple v. Samsung case has decided to hear expert testimony via the "hot tub" method. Sadly, that doesn't mean the experts will take the stand while slowly parboiling in 104-degree water; it means that all experts appear in court at the same time, so if Apple's expert makes some grandiose yet unlikely declaration, the attorneys can call on Samsung's expert to counter it, and vice versa. (The more boring name for this is "concurrent evidence.")
Still, that gives me a great idea for a new invention or possibly just a Hollywood sequel, "Hot Tub Truth Machine." The tagline: "You can sit, but you cannot lie." Quick, get me John Cusack on line one.
The worst thing that could happen in these cases would be for one side to win, especially if a jury decided that Apple invented every cool device on the planet and now gets to own Samsung.
I understand: Innovators need to be protected, and Apple is clearly an innovative company. But its innovation has less to do with electronics and a lot more to do with attitude.
Apple did not invent the smartphone, the capacitive touchscreen, or the idea of a flat-panel tablet computer. Apple's true innovations were a) the realization that people want things that look and feel like something they saw once on "Star Trek," and 2) they like those cool things to work when you turn them on (unlike the plastic versions they saw on "Star Trek").
Apple does a better job than any other company on the planet of executing on those two things, and it does so by limiting its customers' options and exercising dictatorial control over how these devices are used. I don't think you can patent that -- at least, I hope you can't.
As for the harm that Samsung is doing to Apple, well, have you looked at sale figures lately? iPads are outselling Android tablets -- not just Samsung's but all Android tablets -- by a margin of more than two to one.
In other words, the marketplace is doing a fine job of rewarding Apple's innovation all on its own, no juries required.
My gut is telling me this is all a big show, and the two companies will be heading toward some kind of settlement. But I hope it doesn't happen too soon. Because this is just too fun to watch.
Who are you rooting for, Apple or Samsung? Cast your lot below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Apple and Samsung: You can't make this stuff up," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.
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