Monthly Archives: August 2012

Apple wins: no surprise, but still a bit of a shock

The degree to which the jury lowered the boom on Samsung still felt like a shock, even though the trial seemed to be going badly for them for weeks.   A billion dollars is still a lot of money, even to these giants (yes, yes, Apple has $100B+ in current assets on its balance sheet, and is adding $7B+ a quarter).  And it could get worse, as Apple will ask the judge to treble the damages due to the willfulness of it.

I think the bigger damage though, and a few people have mentioned it, is that Samsung is now explicitly tagged as a copycat.   A lot of people won’t care, and some people might actually have a bit of a more thoughtful view on all creativity being pretty derivative (as SJobs himself pointed out).  But there is a good chance that the damage to Samsung’s brand is far worse than the money award to Apple, or even having to pull some of their more outmoded models off the market.

If you are in the Samsung marketing department, you might be thinking that all the work and money spent of building up an innovation brand has been severely diluted, and that future work – even the pillow-soft attempts to make a galacticly massive Korean electronics conglomerate look human — is going to have this shadow of copycat.   Not great.

Of course Samsung is copying Apple…why wouldn’t they?

Samsung may try to deny it in order to save a few billion dollars, but I don’t think it is a question that they’re copying Apple (hilarious example).   Apple may think that the extent of the copying is unfair, sure, but I bet if you had several beers with Tim Cook, you might get him to admit that this lawsuit against Samsung really isn’t about fairness at all, but just equally ruthless (and perfectly legal) business tactics designed to slow down and punish the competition in an environment where it’s too easy to be a fast follower.  Samsung knew it was flirting with disaster (helped by having been warned by Google), but probably took a well thought-out gamble that mimicking the iPhone/iPad had more upside than downside.

Apple takes “inspiration” when it needs to: pull-down notifications in iOS, dictation built into the keyboard, Instapaper-like functionality built into Safari, etc.  Pick an industry, and you’ll find winning designs that are copied, because it would be corporate negligence not to.  Windows-based PCs: the ThinkPad.  Cars: the Camry, Accord or the BMW 3-series.  Action movies: the Jason Bourne series.  Many things are derivative these days, or designed to meet a market standard that a competitor has set.

That all said, the iPhone was the result of far superior execution in areas where Windows Mobile, Palm, and Symbian had previously been (touch screen, mobile web and email, mapping, voicemail, conversational SMS, management via iTunes, music and video, apps, seamless OS upgrades), as well as an unprecedented set of truly unique inventions.  The fact that they got it so right in their Version 1.0 is simply mind-blowing.

What’s pretty interesting is that Samsung (despite having essentially unlimited resources, a long-history in the phone business, the in-market iPhone/iPad/iOS devices, the WWDC previews of what’s coming, the insight of being a major component supplier of iOS devices, and Google doing 99% of the operating system heavy lifting for them) hasn’t managed to decidedly tie — let alone blow past — Apple yet in terms of product yet.

Augustus…a great read

Just finished reading Augustus by John Williams.   It was published originally in 1972, and uses an epistemological form (ie., fictional letters between the main characters) to tell the story of Octavian Caesar, eventually known as “the August”, or Augustus.  If the style sounds tedious, don’t worry it’s not.  I have to admit that HBO’s Rome imagery was in my head, indelibly (if you’re wondering why, check out this PG-13 clip).  Great read: fantastic sweep of history, ruthless politics (and mothers), well drawn famous characters (Julius Caesar, Cicero, Agrippa, Ovid, Horace, Virgil, etc.).  Hard to say whether the history is any more accurate than other accounts, but it doesn’t matter.  If you’re looking for sex on the level of the HBO series, you won’t find it in the book.

Outlet, for now

This blog is an outlet for me. Sometimes the posting will be frequent; other times, probably dictated by personal and actual bandwidth, it will be sparse. The bar, hopefully, will be highish, as I’m no more interested in my mundane than others are.