Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trial and Errol?

So I've tried to avoid it for the past few weeks, but I think it's time to finally say something about the whole Apple vs. Samsung trial debacle. The trial has dominates the tech news cycle relentlessly for weeks, and it's become so much of a sideshow that it's almost embarrassing to our industry. Between the swashbuckling Errol Flynn antics of the lawyers that finally emboldened the judge to ask them if they were on crack, to the completely idiotic and clumsy Errol the owl (from Harry Potter) arguments and missteps, this trial has ranked right up there with the must-see TV drama of the OJ Simpson glove fiasco.

At the heart of the trial is the notion that Samsung, in it's desire to catch up to the skyrocketing Apple, decided to simply copy Apple's trademarked designs for it's own products, so that they would be more competitive at market. Combine this with the pre-4.0 Android habit of trying to constantly keep up with iOS, and you get the making of a trademark lawsuit that should really have solved itself years ago. By that I mean, duh, Samsung copied Apple and most people simply don't care.

Full disclosure here.... I own many Apple products and like them. When I purchased and used an Android phone I specifically got an HTC since Sense had a unique feel that made it different than iOS. But to even the most novice eye, what Samsung did was blatantly obvious. I remember a few years ago, a friend of mine handed me his Samsung Galaxy phone to look at. It was silver and rounded on the back, with a silver beveled edge... just like the iPhone 3. When I turned it on, it had four square icons at the bottom, just like iOS. Then the complete slap in the face when I swiped through the list of apps... Samsung had completely modified Android so that you swiped left/right between screens of apps, instead of up/down through a long list of apps (which is the Android default). At every turn, this phone screamed "I AM JUST LIKE AN IPHONE!!! LOVE ME!!!" Did I mistake my friends phone for an iPhone? Not really. It wasn't hard to miss the huge "Samsung" imprinted on the front of the screen, or the fact that it had four buttons on the front instead of just one. But was it a blatant case of "me too" copying? Most certainly. Should Apple have pursued Samsung on this? Sure, back in those days it was pretty open and shut.

But we're years removed from that now, and Samsung has thankfully started to rely more on Google's design guidance. The latest Android version (Jelly Bean) is a really cool operating system in it's own right, and Google is starting to differentiate itself from just an iOS copy. The latest Samsung devices are much more unique and don't feel like an Apple device much at all. But yet, Apple decided to push ahead and ask for import injunction, and a massive showboat trial. It stinks of Steve Job's prideful statement that he was going to go "thermo-nuclear" on Android. It stinks of sour grapes. That's not the way I wanted to think about Apple, since on many levels I think their product is still vastly superior to Android on many levels.

So as the trial winds down to a close, I wait for a nice simple resolution. But I doubt I'm going to get one. I'm sure there will be appeals, and new trials, and more silliness. For now I'm going to go back to trying to ignore the whole thing, and hope it all goes away. Maybe they'll be some nice tech news about games or something light-hearted next week... one can hope.