Jun 302012

The biggest difference between Apple and Android OEMs in the patent wars are the patents asserted by the parties against each other. The Android crowd has no problem seeking injunctions using patents that are pledged to be negotiated under fair, reasonable and non-discrinatory (FRAND) terms, while Apple has said publicly that it will do no such thing. Both Samsung and Motorola Mobility are using FRAND patents in their defense after being called to the carpet by Apple. After some murmurs of discontent, the Federal Trade Commission is now stepping in to see what’s going on – at least between MMI and Apple. That’s right kids: thanks to their $12.5 billion newborn, Google is going to get another visit from their friends at the FTC.

MMI has been begging for government intervention for at least the last year. Its FRAND abuse against Microsoft is well-documented, as they’ve been leveraging their FRAND arsenal in an attempt to get XBox 360s banned from sale. Their 2.25% ask for every unit sold – a total Microsoft estimated at over $4 billion – got MMI laughed away from the negotiating table. Recently, MMI’s IP counsel got cute with the press, claiming the company never asked for anything like that. Too bad a damage calculation entered 2 years earlier – by the same person – asked for exactly that. On the Apple side, MMI has asserted 4 such patents in their defense of Apple’s “thermonuclear assault” on Android OEMs.

Google should be on a first name basis with the FTC staff by now; they’re already in the midst of a broad antitrust investigation into whether Google’s jiggering of search-results rankings constitute anti-competitive behavior. How do they feel about the FTC’s second pending action?

“We take our commitments to license on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms very seriously and are happy to answer any questions,” Niki Fenwick, a Google spokeswoman, said. I guess the second part of the quote got lopped off – the one that said “But we don’t know what these Motorola assholes are thinking.”

Hey Google: you own MMI now. You may not want to take responsibility for their bullshit, but rest assured, you will.

 Posted by at 11:21 pm
Jun 302012

Gene Munster, everyone’s favorite Apple television cheerleader, decided to take a day off from being wrong about the company’s future products and spent the day being wrong about their current offerings. As reported by Bloomberg (obviously Munster wouldn’t make Piper Jeffray money if he gave his priceless analysis away), he did some extensive testing of Siri and found it to be seriously lacking, an assessment I’d apply to Munster’s analysis in general. In the end, he recommended that Google does a better job understanding queries and returning relevant results and gave Siri a score of B for “comprehension” and a D for “accuracy”. Not to be a nit – actually precisely to be a nit – Munster should check out a dictionary before he publishes something. Comprehension, as in, “to understand the nature or meaning of; grasp with the mind; perceive” is what Munster wants to slag with his bullshit “grading”. Accuracy, or “the condition or quality of being true, correct, or exact; freedom from error or defect; precision or exactness; correctness” is something Munster admits Siri does quite well – over 80% according to his tests. I will say using words that “don’t mean what you think they mean” is pretty much in line with what I’ve come to expect from Munster’s scrawling.

Munster’s methodology? Oh that. He tested his iPhone 4S devices in both “a quiet room” and on the streets somewhere in Minneapolis, his team speaking and dictating to their handsets 800 times in each scenario. I guess it must still be winter in Minneapolis. I will say his “n” was more impressive than Munster’s last statistical opus where he asked 100 developers – at WWDC no less – about their preferred platform and then wrote a story about it. Statisticians around the world use stories about Munster’s methodologies to frighten their children into doing their math homework.

When he compared Siri’s results with Google’s, he found that Google “comprehended” his queries 100% of the time and returned higher quality responses, earning it the grade of B+. Google’s results were typed in, which is hilarious since the iPhone Google app has a voice input option. So why wasn’t there parity on input? We’re dealing with Gene Munster here. That’s about as good of an answer as I can give you. Siri understood 83% or 89% of the questions it was asked, depending on whether the scenario was “noisy” or “loud”. Google’s “accuracy” was 86% – or a B+ for those of you who need to have a dumb comparison dumbed down further. Siri’s “accuracy” was 62/68%, earning her a D. Munster didn’t grade how well his testers were able to make appointments, set timers or reminders, send text messages and call people using both services -the things people actually use Siri for – because that would have made Google look dumb.

Gene Munster’s point – if he has one beyond embarrassing himself with his crap surveys – is that Siri isn’t Google search – yet. Shocking, I know. I haven’t seen the Siri commercial where Samuel L. Jackson asks Siri who Peyton Manning plays for or John Malkovitch asks where Elvis is buried, so I’m pretty sure that’s not how Apple is advertising it either. But instead of testing how Apple bills the beta of its assistant, Munster would rather rig a test and compare one of its features to Google’s strongest. That’s as stupid as claiming that there’s an Apple television in the pipeline any day now, which happens to be Gene’s other specialty.

 Posted by at 12:49 pm
Jun 292012

When it was announced that Apple won a preliminary injunction against the year-old Galaxy Tab 10.1, I shrugged. The device, that was DOA on the launchpad, already had a DOA successor. The bond Apple posted to affect it represented less than 6,000 Tabs, which itself is a testament to how bright the device’s future is. I also didn’t think this victory represented any kind of trend. Looks like I was wrong.

Today my new favorite judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus a.k.a. Google’s latest reference shartphone. Shit just got real.

The injunction order is interesting for several reasons. First, it’s against a Google reference device, which is supposed to be the embodiment of the pure Android experience. There’s no Sense or Blur overlays; this is the handset that Google wants to represent its Android brand. Reference devices haven’t historically been great sellers for OEMs, but it’s an indication that Apple is striking closer to heart of Android – and Google itself. Then there’s the silver bullet patent responsible for the injunction order itself. US patent number 8,086,604, granted in 2004, covers “Universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system” and is the basis for the iOS’s Siri. The thing that makes it huge is that it covers aspects core to the functionality of Android. Take a moment to savor the bonus “suck it” irony factor of Google getting shit on by a patent for search.

The question remains whether or not Apple will use this Siri victory to try and go after the Galaxy S III, which would be absolutely devastating to Samsung and Android. It would also amplify the butthurt howling of freetards to a level that could be heard from space, which would be delicious. The problem with that, as already suggested by Koh earlier this month, is that filing for an injunction against the S III would likely delay Apple’s trial against Samsung scheduled for July 30. I say go for it. The S III is already available on T-Mobile (read: 25 people), but supply chain delays have resulted in release dates that have slipped to July 1 for Sprint and “sometime in July” for Verizon. AT&T hasn’t announced a release date. If Apple can successfully land an injunction against what people are calling one of the best Android devices currently available, it’ll be a shot heard ’round the world.

 Posted by at 11:53 pm
Jun 282012

One of the most influential people working at Apple during Steve Jobs’s tenure, Bob Mansfield, SVP of Hardware Engineering, is retiring after 13 years.

I’ve never seen them together. Coincidence?

In all seriousness, he’s the guy that since 1999 looked at the funky kit Jony and Steve wanted to sell, swallowed the vomit and made it happen – consistently. His list of credits is the list of products that turned Apple around after Jobs’s return. Good design is about 20% ideas and 80% implementation. Mansfield was the implementer. That’s about as high a praise as I can muster for anyone.

Thanks for the great years, the great products and for helping turn the company I’ve grown to love into the best consumer electronics maker in the world. You will be missed.

 Posted by at 8:34 pm
Jun 282012

Remember Eric Holder? He’s the guy who heads up the government agency that’s going after Apple and 3 other publishers for colluding to set the price of e-books. They have a trial date set for June of next year. He may not be around to see it, not with the kind of day he had.

Today the House of Representatives found Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents related to the “Fast and Furious” gun-running sting that ended up getting a Border Patrol Agent killed. I don’t know much about politics, being an Apple blogger and all, but I guess that’s frowned upon.

Hatchet-free cartoon credit: Orlando Sentinel-Dana Summers

The DoJ’s case against Apple is a joke to begin with, so Holder may want to take this opportunity to focus his efforts on issues that aren’t totally retarded. I guarantee that his agency isn’t going to come off sounding any more credible after Apple gets through with them – they’ve already shredded your accusations point by embarrassing point. Maybe he should consider spending more time with his attorney during this time of “misunderstanding”. Either way, we Apple folks promise to pretend like it never happened.

 Posted by at 7:56 pm
Jun 282012

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who grimaced when Google’s Joe Britt uttered the words “It just works” when describing the company’s orb of improbability, the Nexus Q. With its spherical design and curious addition of a speaker and amp – and of course its $299 price tag – the Q seems to be the antithesis of the AppleTV. Unfortunately for Google, according to The Verge, it looks like they’ve carried that “opposite of Apple” philosophy all the way:

Video was another matter. We were able to stream YouTube video through the Q without concern, but television shows and movies had considerable issues. There were noticeable video artifacts when watching an episode of The Walking Dead, and the Q repeatedly halted playback to buffer the video stream (all on a 35 Mbps connection here in our west coast offices).

I love the use of the word “considerable.” With tech sites that try to maintain an unbiased outlook, “considerable” is tantamount to “unusable”. Maybe the Google Play servers were slammed from all those people queuing up to buy one. Or something.

The Q is also billed as the first “Social Media Player”, so that should make up for the device’s fundamental flaw of not being able to play video very well.

One of Google’s selling points this morning was the Q as a “social” media streamer, allowing multiple people to stream music to the Q to partake in the fun. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to utilize this functionality initially. Additional Jelly Bean devices refused to pair with the Q until we’d hard reset all involved devices several times.

It just works!

/hard reset

It just works!

/hard reset


But like the Pontiac Aztek, it was mostly made in the U.S.A., something that The Verge and every single other press outlet must add to its description of the Q, usually within 10 words of the $299 price, as if a $200 premium on a piece of flawed consumer electronics could be somehow be justified that way. The movement to bring manufacturing back to this country knows no better ally than Google?

I think we’re going to need a bigger roflcopter.

 Posted by at 8:39 am
Jun 272012

You knew there had to be a reason that the Nexus Q was announced at a $299 price point. My personal predictions ranged from solid gold resistors to real unicorn tears flowing through the snazzy LED ring that circles the device’s dome. Turns out I was way off. The Q owes its roadkill pricing to being Born in the USA (mostly).

That’s right: none other than the New York Times plays the role of Google spin stooge by reporting that “Google says the price is due in part to the higher costs of manufacturing in the United States.” If you want to know where in the U.S. the Q’s components are made – or which components aren’t – you’re going to have a slightly more difficult time of it:

Google is not saying a lot about its domestic manufacturing, refusing to even publicly disclose where the factory is in Silicon Valley. It also is not saying much about the source of many of its parts in the United States. And Mr. Rubin said the company is not engaged in a crusade.

If this PR stunt was an attempt to shame Apple for its overseas manufacturing, it’s a flop on at least three levels. First, as Tim Cook pointed out in his appearance at D10, Apple does manufacture components in the U.S.: the iPhone’s and iPad’s glass and A5 processors were mentioned specifically. Second, Google’s “Made in the U.S.A” label doesn’t stand up to scrutiny very well:

The engineers who led the effort to build the device, which is based on the same microprocessor used in Android smartphones and which contains seven printed circuit boards, found the maker of the zinc metal base in the Midwest and a supplier for the molded plastic components in Southern California. Semiconductor chips are more of a challenge. In some cases, the chips are made in the United States and shipped to Asia to be packaged with other electronic components.

So what is this – 51% manufactured in the United States? I know you want to be all modest, Andy, when you claim you’re “not engaged in a crusade”, but spill it. What was made where? Surely you don’t think device-makers will flock to the people who manufacture your overpriced set-top box just so they can disingenuously claim it was made in this country? Lastly, who does Google think this schtick is appealing to – aside from the NYT hacks who are lapping it up? Made in the U.S.A. may mean something to people choosing a pickup truck, but it means squat to people making up the consumer electronics market – especially when your kit is $200 more than your competition’s.

Like a lot of Google’s attempted spin, the “Born in the U.S.A.” crock is based on laughably incomplete information, designed to smear a competitor who doesn’t engage in the behavior as described and totally overvalues the message’s effect on the consumer.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Jun 272012

Another failed TMA entry into Google’s I/O Banner Contest

I’m sure you were all breathlessly glued to your browsers watching Google’s I/O keynote today. As has been the case every year, the crew from Mountain View demoed some interesting products that either made you question why they exist or are riding the coattails of someone else’s earlier offering.

The Nexus Q is a decidedly different take on the AppleTV and by “different,” I mean “unexplainable.” The spherical device is designed to be a media hub for Google Play, but for reasons I can’t fathom, it’s a lot more than that. It has a built-in speaker and 25-watt amp, which are odd features for a product designed to be integrated into a home theater setup. What purpose does the speaker serve? People with basic home theater/HTPC setups have at least a left, right and center channel speaker, so why include one that will be, at best, superfluous? And why the built-in amp? Only the most basic setups don’t have an amp, and almost all of them have one built into the tuner. You can also be sure it’s better than the one in Google’s device. Does Google really see their market as one where people plug their speakers directly into their device? These additions would be little more than curiosities if it wasn’t for the price. The Q will sell for $299, three times as much as an AppleTV and more than any of the current Google TV set-top devices.

The device’s other big selling point is that it’s the first “social media player,” which is hilarious for a company that has failed the balls off of social to date. According to the demo, your neckbeard friends – who also obviously have Android devices – can use it to create music playlists that can be streamed to your overpriced hub (edit: apparently they – and you – must have Android devices to use the thing; the Q won’t work as a stand-alone player). I predict a wave of Nexus Q parties that will rival Microsoft’s Windows 7 parties in popularity. You can also watch YouTube videos together, which is obviously a much more popular social activity than I had previously realized. So the Q is an attempt to integrate home theater components that people already own in a package that costs more than any other comparable device, while offering nothing to justify the premium. This thing is going to be a massive fail.

Gee, I wonder how it’s going to end this time.

Next up was the widely predicted Nexus tablet, the Nexus 7. Google went the other way on this device, offering a 7″ tablet that hoses the Amazon Fire’s specs for the same price: $199. The keynote speakers billed the N7 (apologies to Commander Shepard) as a device that brings your content front and center, which is pretty much the lead sentence of the Fire’s marketing brochure. And while there were some pretty impressive Google Play partnerships announced during the keynote for movie, TV show and magazine content, Google can’t seriously think it can be competitive with Amazon when it comes to content access. The two tangible advantages the Nexus 7 offers over Amazon’s current Fire are specs and Jelly Bean. Expect Amazon – being Amazon – to immediately slash the prices of its Fire and probably release a device with juicier guts for the same price. Remember what Amazon did to the Kindle once the iPad was announced? Lather, rinse, repeat. Because the Fire is a forked Gingerbread device, its OS may be caught lagging, but that matters to 5% of the people who will be choosing between it and a Nexus 7, especially if the Fire gets a price cut. If Amazon can produce a $99 Fire or match the performance of the 7, Google’s device will faceplant with the market that doesn’t include Google I/O attendees. When Microsoft announced the Surface, at least they understood the market in which they were competing when it pulled the device’s manufacturing under its umbrella.

In summary, the Nexus Q integrates the wrong features into a product that is an automatic non-starter in the current set-top landscape. The Nexus 7 is trying to bounce the king of loss-leaders with a faster version of a device that was announced last year. My prediction? Pain.

 Posted by at 2:42 pm
Jun 272012

After over a year, Apple managed to obtain a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in its home country.

Forgive me if the cork remains firmly lodged in my champagne bottle.

The 10.1 is a product in the last phase of a decidedly lackluster lifecycle, having been recently succeeded by the Galaxy Tab 2. Released to the undiscerning hordes in March of last year, the original Tab’s sales may have been “quite smooth” by Samsung’s accounts, but if you look at any of the analyst community’s accounting, sales were somewhere between “jack” and “shit”. This view is re-enforced by the amount of the bond Apple has to post – in case the injunction is overturned – to affect it: $2.6 million. If you take the $450 asking price, that’s less than 6,000 units. There were more iPads sold in the time it takes you to read this sentence.

You could make the argument that Apple’s win sets a precedent, but it’s not much of an argument. Samsung already designed around Apple’s IP to the satisfaction of the German courts with the 10.1N and the company has 3 other form factors (7″, 7.7″ and 8.9″), not to mention the pocket-busting 5.3″ Galaxy Note. It may get some traction with the 10.1″ Tab 2, but who knows how long round 2 of the Apple IP circlejerk will last.

So after a year of stalling, maneuvering, and more stalling, Samsung managed to keep its iPad knock-off on the U.S. market for over a year. Apple prevailed in the end, but only in the most Pyrrhic sense.

 Posted by at 9:03 am
Jun 252012

You have to wonder what kind of view Google has over the “Firewall” it claims to have erected between itself and Motorola Mobility Inc., a company they bought for the bargain basement price of $12.5 billion. In addition to getting a company that hasn’t been in the black for almost 2 years, MMI is doing its best to make its new owners look like deceitful double-dealers by shopping its patent spats with Apple and Microsoft around to the court of public opinion. The problem with their strategy is two-fold: generally, things that get blabbed to the press don’t correspond to their real-world courtroom counterparts and the things that MMI is bleating about don’t correspond to past matters of public record. And the disparities are as obvious as they are egregious.

As reported by Florian Meuller in his FOSS Patents blog, MMI’s statements to Ars Technica about the terms they’ve been offering to Microsoft in its race with Redmond for product injunctions are, at best, contrary to what they’ve been putting into court documents. Mueller opens by pointing out MMI’s statement that “Both Microsoft and Apple need to show that they’re willing to be reasonable as well by respecting the contributions Motorola has made in literally creating the mobile phone industry” would be nice – if 1. any of the crop of Motorola’s FRAND patents they were using against Microsoft had anything to do with cellular technology and 2. if they possessed any cellular patents that haven’t expired. He then moves on to MMI’s IP counsel’s claim that:

Microsoft says we demanded $4 billion a year from them, and that’s simply not true,’ said Kirk Dailey, VP of intellectual property for Motorola Mobility. ‘We never asked for anything like that.

Except that this statement is exactly the opposite of what the claim filed by MMI 2 years ago reads:

As per Motorola’s standard terms, the royalty (2.25%) is calculated based on the price of the end product (e.g., each Xbox 360 product, each PC/laptop, each smartphone, etc.) and not on component software (e.g., Xbox 360 system software, Windows 7 software, Windows Phone 7 software, etc.).

Microsoft’s allegation that MMI was seeking in the ballpark of $4 billion is actually on the low side, as it assumes an average PC cost of $500 (insert  “race to the bottom PC pricing joke” here). To top it off, the statement made to Ars about “never asking for anything like that” was made by the same lawyer who filed the very specific MMI royalty calculation: Kirk Dailey.

Google can claim up and down that it lets MMI operate on its own; that doesn’t make the huge black smear they’re continuing to apply across Google’s brand any less tawdry. It’d be smart if someone from Google had a little “come to Jesus” talk with MMI, or at least put a muzzle on their counsel. I personally have no problem with them doing neither and letting their duplicity continue to glare before the eyes of the entire tech world.

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
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