Aug 282012

I imagine the last year or so at Samsung must have been pretty liberating for the South Korean company’s in-house designers. With Apple breathing down Sammy’s neck, threatening all sorts of legal action over some design infringement “misunderstandings”, it must have ushered in a renaissance of sorts. What would happen if Samsung was not beholden to the whims of Apple’s design cues, slavishly forced to transcribe every iOS device nuance into PowerPoint comparisons in an attempt to mimic Cupertino’s latest and greatest? What if the creative elements within the company were allowed to tempt their muses and explore their inspiration?

sadtrombone.aif – Courtesy of Android Police

Exactly what you’d expect Samsung would deliver once kicked off Apple’s design tit. Behold the Galaxy Note 10.1. The Verge, which I hear receives at least one death threat when they rate an Android tablet below a 7 out of 10, gave the Note a 5.4, noting the cheap build quality that has become the new Samsung trademark and the (still) laggy performance despite its 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor and 2GB of RAM. Just 4 more cores, guys, and we swear it’s going to perform. The photo above was courtesy of an even more savage thrashing of the Note by the Android Police, and it just may be the funniest thing you read today. I don’t want to ruin too much, but I will share my favorite line:

Asus, Apple, and Motorola are building tablets out of aluminum, and Samsung is doing… this. This is the build quality I would expect in a $100 Chinese-knockoff “Android Tablet” from the bottom shelf of a Kmart, not a $500 tablet from the world’s largest Android OEM. Samsung should be ashamed.

The reviewer then goes on to rip Samsung’s TouchWiz UI sodomizing of stock Android Jelly Bean…err Ice Cream Sandwich, the screen, the pen – just about every feature of the device. All this coming from a site that embraces Android.

The reviewers of the Note are so unimpressed with the device (and let’s face it, “unimpressed” is the Gaussian blur applied to an Android device that sucks balls; no big site reviewer is going to slam an Android device “off the curve” as Gruber would say, lest they attract the ire of the commentariat neckbeard posse), one wonders if Samsung didn’t intentionally release it as a way of crying foul about having to design around Apple’s patents. “We wanted to build something that would surprise and delight, but Apple’s rounded rectangle patents wouldn’t let us! See how you’re hurting the market, imperialist American juries?”

Nah. I’m going with the whole “they suck at design” theory.

 Posted by at 10:37 pm
Aug 282012

I woke up on Saturday morning to the smell of napalm still hanging in the air.

Google’s victory over Oracle taught me not to expect the obvious when a patent trial went to jury, so I processed the Apple-Samsung deliberations through a filter of very low expectations. What ended up happening was as close to total vindication as one can obtain in the current legal environment: Samsung was found to be a willful infringer on Apple’s design and trade dress patents and the jury assessed over a billion dollars in damages.

After all the years of Samsung’s posturing, foot-dragging and motion-filing, it was decided. It was all over except the cryin’ (and the beginning of appeal hell). Because the Internet runs on clicks generated through manufactured controversy, a chunk of tech punditry made sure the cryin’ was delivered in copious amounts. I expected a backlash against Apple, but what shocked me a little was one of its sources: the usually steady Andy Ihnatko, who cried “Near-total victory for Apple stifles phone, tablet design“. Oh boy.

I once had an uncle that didn’t drink, but one time someone spiked his shandy with root beer schnapps at a family get-together. After dressing down my aunt about her cooking, he mounted his riding lawn mower and proceeded to drive it straight into his swimming pool. The moral of the story is that sometimes you can have a really bad day. My uncle’s name was Andy, by the way. True story.

Andy starts his tractor ride by insinuating that the jury venue of San Jose, California was rigged for Apple’s success, astutely noting “If a chocolate company wanted to win a multibillion-dollar lawsuit, they’d want the case decided by juries selected from Hershey, Penn.” He then…

Actual ad appearing after 1st paragraph of article

…I guess the Chicago Sun-Times needs to eat too. Anyway, Uncle Andy explained how horrible the decision was thusly: Apple’s patent win will make it “far, far more difficult, expensive, and risky to be a company that designs phones and tablets.” I think Andy means “an Android OEM that designs phones and tablets”, because Microsoft doesn’t seem to have these problems – or and Palm/HP before them. He posits that what makes it easier for Microsoft is some nebulous cross-licensing agreement they have with Apple, which strikes me as news because I’ve only read about alleged agreements that neither party has substantiated. It’s also well-documented in the court reporting that Apple did attempt to negotiate with Samsung, but they were more interested in jerking the courts around while ripping off Apple for free than they were in exchanging money for Apple’s IP. There’s also the small issue of Microsoft’s design of Windows Phone 7 looking nothing like – hence not infringing on – Apple’s design and trade dress patents. That’s why Samsung, who had iteratively documented the iPhone’s design as a template for their own devices, was in court and not Microsoft. And that’s why Apple won. In what universe do people think 1. that Apple’s patents weren’t infringed upon and 2. Samsung didn’t derive a significant financial benefit from willfully pissing all over those patents? So what has this verdict done for Apple’s image? Well…


Ahem. To hear Ihnatko explain it:

An Apple spokesperson thanked the jury, insisting that the lawsuits against Samsung were about values. “We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy.”

Which seems like a bold way to characterize the jury’s findings, given the esoteric specifics of the ruling.

Friday’s verdict doesn’t feel like justice. It feels like the day when Apple lost a hunk of its public persona as sweet hippies motivated by excellence and freedom, who win by making the best products.

Actually, the specifics of the ruling are very clear, unless “esoteric” has been redefined to mean “having a quality of uncertainty achieved by not paying attention”, which may explain its juxtaposition to the word “specifics”. Maybe he has a problem with the vagueness of the patents in question, but you don’t really get that from the piece, just 500 words of contrarian prose designed to pull in the eyeballs and flametarded comments from both sides of the aisle. Andy’s old enough to remember what a lack of IP protection recourse almost did to Apple in the 90s. If he needs a refresher, Daniel Eran Dilger provides a great one.

I expected to read this, but I confess its authorship was disappointing. I hope it didn’t cost him a lawnmower too.

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Aug 132012

You’ve heard me say that the technoverse that covers Apple news is basically a bunch of cut and paste artists that throw up rumors with the frequency of a supermodel recycling her lunch. There is very little critical thinking that goes into reblogging the latest Apple rumor, which is why the scam pulled by Swedish design firm 4Day is absolutely hilarious. They seeded a rumor that was sure to get the iFixIt crew all rankled: the next iPhone would feature asymmetrically-headed screws that would make it a bitch for people to take the things apart. They even added a 3D model for some added authenticity and posted it to Reddit. The predictable result? The rumor mills went crazy re-posting the story while the 4Day people likely had themselves a good laugh.

You can see the 4Day crew fessing up here, but if you’re interested in anything else they do, you’re going to have to speak Swedish.

+1 to the 4Day crew for highlighting the silliness of Apple rumor mongering. It won’t stop the proprietors from continuing to churn garbage, but hopefully this stunt will infuse a little skepticism into an otherwise mindless operation.

 Posted by at 3:50 pm
Aug 082012

You’ve no doubt heard that Apple recently entered into evidence a Samsung document that meticulously goes over a number of iPhone features and compares them to their own current offering (the S1), then goes on to make recommendations on how to improve Samsung’s future devices based on the iPhone’s implementation. AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski and Ina Fried reported on it first and Paczkowski took the time to upload the document in question to ScribeD. At 132 pages, it’s really an amazing tribute to the lengths Samsung went to copy the iPhone, but what struck me most was how similar many of Samsung’s current features were to the iPhone at the time of the analysis.

And these are pulled from just the first 28 entries. What this indicates to me is that not only did Samsung use the iPhone as the basis for its design decisions, it periodically reviewed the effectiveness of its copying to fine-tune it. The fact that the Samsung examples so closely resemble iOS at the time of the analysis makes it clear that this is not some one-time comparison – it’s a template for willful, iterative grafting of Apple’s look and feel.

 Posted by at 3:17 pm
Aug 082012

There’s a pretty scathing article in the The Kernel about Samsung’s business practices in South Korea that make their rampant infringement on Apple’s intellectual property look mild in comparison. It paints a picture of a business that essentially runs South Korea, with tentacles molesting every business sector in the country from theme parks to food and beverages. Speaking out against Samsung in-country is tantamount to treason, even in the face of numerous bribery, corruption and even money laundering scandals. And then there’s the company’s refusal to release data on the health of its employees:

In a paper published by the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health in its Summer 2012 edition, Samsung is highlighted as one source of major health issues in the semiconductor industry.

The study, “Leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in semiconductor industry workers in Korea”, says: “Samsung, the world’s largest information technology and electronics corporation (as measured by revenues), has refused to make public such data concerning the industrial processes that affect electronics workers and has impeded attempts by independent researchers to obtain essential information.”

The bottom line is – and always has been – that Samsung is a grossly unethical company that will use any means at its disposal to remain competitive. Buying off government officials, actively busting any attempt by workers to unionize, blatantly ripping off the designs of its more successful competitors: nothing is out of bounds for this company. The Apple v. Samsung case is just another entry in a catalog of business decisions made without regard for their consequences.

 Posted by at 12:14 pm
Aug 042012

A couple of months ago, I posted a summary of what kit staff members of The Verge carried in their bags: all but one of them carried an Apple laptop. My other favorite tech site, Ars Technica, just ran a piece on what their staff use in their home offices and the results were very different. Actually, they weren’t.

Lee Aylward: Lead Programmer – MacBook Air, PC for “gaming and IE testing”. Seriously: IE testing.

Aurich Lawson: Creative Director- Retina MacBook Pro and iMac

Cyrus Farivar: Senior Business Editor – MacBook Air

Iljitsch van Beijnum: Ars Contributor – MacBook Pro

Jon Brodkin: Senior IT Reporter – Mac Mini running Windows 7 on a partition (lest he be disinvited from the IT book club)

Chris Foresman: Ars Contributor – MacBook Air

Megan Geuss: Staff Editor – MacBook and PC Desktop (for reasons unknown)

Eric Bangeman: Managing Editor – Mac Pro & MacBook Air

Cesar Torres: Social Editor – iMac

Ryan Paul: Open Source Editor – MacBook Air and (gratuitous neckbeard) PC Tower running Ubuntu

Peter Bright: Microsoft Editor – self-built full tower PC, Lenovo X300 laptop, MacBook Pro, and for Samsung Series 7 Slate. Schizophrenia attributable to not using a Mac full-time.

Casey Johnston: Ars Contributor – MacBook Pro

Jacqui Cheng: Senior Apple Editor – iMac and MacBook Air

All of them rely on – or at least use – an Apple computer in their own homes. The IT guy, the open-source guy – even the Windows guy – rock Cupertino kit. Again, these are people who forgot more about tech than you know and could have their pick of any PC on the market.
The tech pros at Ars Technica use Macs. You probably should too.
 Posted by at 4:23 pm
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