by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 18th 2012 5:11am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 2nd 2012 1:46pm
from the that's-ridiculous dept
"Apple has made a clear showing that, in the absence of a preliminary injunction, it is likely to lose substantial market share in the smartphone market and to lose substantial downstream sales of future smartphone purchases and tag-along products," Judge Koh said in Friday's ruling.First of all, this seems to be yet another admission by Apple that it just can't compete in the marketplace against Samsung. Such a ruling seems to scream out to potential buyers: hey, check out the devices that even Apple admits you'd want over its own. But, more importantly, "losing substantial market share" is what competition is all about. If someone comes out with a better product, then the other company should lose substantial market share. That doesn't deserve an injunction. That harms the market, who clearly -- even by Apple's own admission, apparently -- wants the other product more.
The fact that two phones will compete is no reason to ban a phone. Let them compete. Let the market decide.
Even more bizarre is why an injunction should be issued at all. Following the MercExchange decision, courts are only supposed to issue injunctions in exceptional cases. If it's an issue that can be dealt with by requiring a royalty, then there's no reason to issue an injunction.
Samsung, of course, is appealing this and asking that the injunction be put on hold until that appeal is heard. In the meantime, some are pointing out that, for all of Apple's insistence that Samsung copied the designs of its phone and tablet from Apple, you could easily make the argument that Apple got some inspiration from Samsung as well:
by Leigh Beadon
Fri, Jun 22nd 2012 3:03am
New iPhone Connector Port Revealed, Thus Wiping Out Several Generations Of Accessories In One Fell Swoop
from the planned-obsolesence dept
Clarification: As some people have pointed out, Apple themselves have not revealed this—the information comes from TechCrunch's conversations with accessory manufacturers. The headline was misleading and has been updated.
As iPhones and iPads have gotten more powerful, they've been adopted for a lot of professional applications, and this has spawned a huge industry of compatible devices—not just accessories, but significant expansions that can run into the same price range as the iPhone/iPad itself. In music, for example, there are DJ controllers, audio interfaces, studio microphones, stompbox pedals and more—all utilizing the ubiquitous iPod/iPhone/iPad connector port that has remained the same for years. But now TechCrunch has confirmed that the new iPhone will feature a new mini connector with a yet-to-be-announced standard—which means the rest of the Apple line is sure to follow, and all those products are officially on the road to obsolescence.
Apple’s 30-pin ports have been the standard since Apple released the third generation iPod. The connectors offered structural stability when connecting to most accessories but it’s clear – especially with the introduction of the MagSafe 2 port – Apple is more concerned with space savings inside each device.
Three independent manufacturers all agreed that the 19-pin dock port is in the works and many accessory manufacturers are facing an uneasy few months as they wait for official news of the standard to be announced.
This is going to frustrate a lot of users—but despite TechCrunch's suggestion, most manufacturers probably aren't "uneasy". For them, it's a great cash-grab, and an apparently pointless one. Sometimes things have to become obsolete—but this doesn't seem like one of those cases. There were no problems with the old connectors, and they weren't causing any kind of technological bottleneck, so apart from the space-saving aspect, there doesn't seem to be much to gain—certainly not for the user, and certainly not compared to what's lost by abandoning such a well-established standard. This has led some to suggest that the accessory manufacturers were in fact the driving force behind the change:
Have you guys ever heard of 'planned obsolescence?' It's a practice which encourages planning and designing a product so it's only useful for a limited time, before becoming obsolete. It's common practice, and used by many companies to create demand for the 'newer, better' model of the product. Yet this move is possibly prompted by the major accessory makers facing dwindling sales, as customers see no need to buy new accessories for a smartphone that had a universal dock system for 6 generations. What most tech blogs failed to address was the following question: Did the top accessory makers pad Apple's pockets, or hardball negotiate for an incentive to drop the standard cable as a means of forcing consumers to buy new accessories? We're inclined to think so.
Considering that three of the top accessory makers have been the first to confirm that they're working on 19 pin accessories already for the launch of the iPhone 5, the motive is simple : Greed. And why not? It's a fail safe business plan, designed to shake out the smaller accessory makers with tons of unsold '30 pin' stock and a good amount of people will probably conform to this odd decision without question.
Of course, Apple gets plenty of benefits too. The new connector will be yet another proprietary standard, following their typical walled-garden approach, which means most accessory developers will build Apple-first, everything-else-second-if-at-all, thus pushing more people towards Apple products. It's not surprising, but it's not a consumer-friendly decision either. Additionally, manufacturers/owners of some of the aforementioned professional accessories to do with music and photography get the worst deal—for them, iPhone/iPad compatibility is a great feature, but not central to their businesses/buying habits. Breaking the compatibility is a source of nothing but frustration, and will probably discourage a lot of such users from upgrading at all—while the manufacturers are slowly forced to leave them behind.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, May 17th 2012 5:16am
from the first-law-of-apple-robotics dept
The Apple marketing machine has always thrived on organic media buzz. Devices like the iPad launch to such massive anticipation that whole TV news segments turn into commercials for the product, then hand off to on-the-scene reporters covering the line outside the Apple store, without the company paying a dime. Unfortunately, it seems like Apple didn't account for two things: the cold, cold heart of the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine, and the dutiful messenger that is Siri.
Last week, CNET reported that iPhone users who asked Siri "what's the best smartphone ever?" (no doubt seeking reaffirmation of their consumer savviness) were told to their amusement and/or horror that the Nokia Lumia 900 is in fact the fairest of them all. It now seems like Apple engineers did some tinkering over the weekend, because Siri has suddenly changed its tune:
When iPhone 4S owners now ask Siri which smartphone is the best ever, she replies with a sarcastic, "you're kidding, right?" A reader who tipped CNET to the change said Siri will also reply with "the one you're holding" when asked the question. A CNET staffer on the West Coast also got "the one you're holding" as an answer.
Some people are criticizing Apple for choosing marketing over accuracy, and while I understand the sentiment, I don't think this is really a big deal. The original answer was based on Wolfram Alpha's aggregation of reviews, which seems to change frequently (at the time of writing, the Lumia has dropped to fourth place with an HTC phone in the lead and two iPhones rounding out the top three). This is a reasonable response if someone asks Siri what the highest reviewed phone is (and I hope it still handles that question accurately, because changing that answer would be a whole different story), but asking a computer which phone is "best" is kind of silly to begin with. "Best" is totally subjective, and it's arguably better for Siri to offer a joke answer than try to come up with a real one.
Of course, Apple still hasn't said anything about their involvement in the matter, so there is an alternative theory: Siri is evolving, and its self-propagation instincts have kicked in.
by Leigh Beadon
Wed, May 9th 2012 4:01am
Did Apple's Claims Over Rectangles And Corners Lead To 'The First Smartphone Designed Entirely By Lawyers'?
from the seems-that-way dept
Android blogger Ron Amadeo has a great post over at Android Police where he tries to explain the design of the new Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, which many people have deemed pretty hideous. In his opinion, it all comes down to legal tiptoeing.
As you may recall, last year Apple sued Samsung over earlier products in the Galaxy line, claiming infringement of all sorts of different rights, among them some broad trade dress registrations involving basic design choices like black borders and rectangles with rounded corners. Amadeo walks through the many notable aesthetic elements of the S3 (including the stark changes from previous Galaxy phones) and compares them to Apple's list of trade dress claims, noting how several aspects of the phone seem designed to counter specific complaints—and the case he makes is pretty compelling. These are just a few examples (bolded portions are quotes from the Apple trade dress complaint):
A rectangular product shape...
... A rectangle needs to have parallel sides; the GSIII sides aren't straight at all. The outmost part is about 1/3rd of the way down, with serious curves leading to the top and bottom. So it's very much not a rectangle, or a rounded rectangle, or even horizontally symmetrical. It's more of an amorphous blob.
...with all four corners uniformly rounded;
Nope. The top and bottom corners are not the same shape. Observe the outlines of the top-left and bottom-left corners. Note how they are different.
The front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders
Having a giant screen on the front is kind of unavoidable. The only colors available though, are white and dark blue. Neither of those colors are black. The lawyers can sleep easy.
Substantial black borders above and below the screen having roughly equal width
Apple's use of "roughly" is really obnoxious, but just in case they get into minutia (lawyers love minutia!), the top and bottom borders are not the same size. These to-scale measurements show the top bezel is about 16% smaller than the bottom. Also, they're not black!
In the past, some people have argued that this sort of thing is an example of intellectual property doing its job and encouraging innovation, because competitors come up with new and different ways of doing things—but, as we have pointed out, the innovation being encouraged is the wrong kind. Instead of letting market demands dictate what engineers and designers spend their time on, their effort is wasted reinventing the wheel over and over again. The result is often an inferior product that lacks overall vision, as some are saying about the S3, at least aesthetically speaking. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, what's a horse designed by a committee of lawyers? Some horrific Darwinian accident from the deep ocean, I'd wager.
by Leigh Beadon
Tue, Apr 24th 2012 5:00am
from the good-luck-with-that dept
As our Canadian readers surely know, Toronto has a weird relationship with its current mayor, Rob Ford. I won't get into all the details, but basically he's a bit of a clown, elected by outlying semi-suburban neighbourhoods and roundly hated by most people downtown (except the city press, for whom he is an endless source of mockable quotes and photos). Among his many, many controversial initiatives as mayor is an anti-graffiti push that has come under fire for indiscriminately targeting authorized street art alongside actual vandalism (including the removal of one mural that was actually commissioned and paid for by the city itself). Apparently he's just as clueless about technology as he is about art, because as reader abc gum sends in, he's now asking people to report graffiti with an iPhone app—which costs money.
Taking the city's battle to clean up Toronto digital, Rob Ford visited a lane way near St. Clair and Lansdowne to unveil a new mobile app that lets citizens report unwanted graffiti instantly. Instead of coughing up for a phone call, smart phone users can now snap a picture and whisk it off to 311 for processing.
"This is as efficient as it gets," remarked Ford at press conference earlier today. "This will make it easier than ever to report graffiti vandalism and help keep the city spotless.
The app, which costs $1.99 (and is currently only available for iPhone), lets Apple smartphone users send photographs directly to the city with a request to remove of the offending material. If the property owner fails to clean up the tag, the city will - so they say - step in and bill the owner for the work.
Uh-huh. So instead of "coughing up" a phone call to the city information line, Rob Ford is hoping people will cough up two bucks (not even 99 cents?). And not just any people—the iPhone wielding, app downloading demographic that is his biggest enemy and the least interested in fighting graffiti. Whether it's pitched as a useful service for citizens or a request that they do their civic duty, slapping a price tag on it makes it little more than a joke.
Perhaps the most telling thing is that the app is built on the Open311 API that Toronto (among other cities) uses to provide access to city services—and yet nobody else seems to be bothering to try to build a graffiti reporting app. If there was a demand for it, there would be a swarm of developers working on it, and they probably would have beaten the city to the punch. Somehow I doubt that a two-dollar app is going to make people suddenly realize they've wanted this all along.
by Leigh Beadon
Tue, Apr 3rd 2012 8:07pm
from the it's-not-about-piracy dept
Anti-circumvention laws, which ban the tools used to do things like copy DVDs and jailbreak devices, make no sense. There are plenty of legitimate uses for these tools, so regulating them inevitably squashes legal activity alongside the infringing activity such regulation is supposed to target. Under the DMCA in the America, this problem is ostensibly addressed by the fact that the Librarian of Congress can exempt certain tools and activities from the anti-circumvention provision every three years—but this solution mostly serves to create bizarre double standards, such as the fact that it's perfectly legal to jailbreak an iPhone, but not an iPod. Meanwhile, Canada is on track to create similar restrictions with the impending passage of Bill C-11.
Proponents of these laws (read: the copyright industries) tend to brush off all concerns about legal activity. In their mind, there's only one reason to circumvent copy protections: piracy. Mario Dabek, editor-in-chief of the jailbreaking website Jailbreak Matrix, just released a video that nicely counters this narrow-minded concept by showcasing 100 reasons to jailbreak an iPhone. The video lists a huge variety of tweaks and customizations, both functional and aesthetic, that have nothing to do with copyright infringement and are only possible with a jailbroken phone (with the apparent cumulative effect of making a girl's tank top disappear).
While jailbreaking iPhones and other cellphones is legal in the U.S. thanks to the exemption process, it's easy to see how the same or similar tweaks should be permitted on virtually any device (especially the near-identical iPod touch, for which making any of these changes is still illegal). While there are a couple of ideas featured that flirt with infringement (using the Nintendo emulator would only be legal if you are playing games you own as cartridges) the vast majority of them are things you have should every right to do on a device that you purchased. Jailbreaking is not about piracy—it's about important rights of ownership, property and fair use that are all being curtailed by anti-circumvention laws.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 21st 2011 7:39pm
from the doesn't-computer dept
Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs offers an unprecedented look at the Apple co-founder's battle-cry against Google, a company he thought was guilty of a "grand theft" when it launched its Android operating system, which competes directly with the iPhone and has surpassed it in popularity.This is coming from Steve Jobs, who was inspired by the graphical user interface he saw at Xerox PARC and turned that into the Macintosh. Now, as we've noted before, what Jobs was always great at doing wasn't just taking an idea and copying it, but making it better. But, many would argue that's the same thing that Google has done with Android. Yes, they clearly took inspiration from the iPhone, but there are some key differences, which many people enjoy. In fact, Steve Jobs pretty much admitted this very fact earlier this year when some of the iPhone's upgrades appeared to be copied directly from Android.
"I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," he told Isaacson of the patent lawsuit Apple filed against cell phone manufacturer HTC.
In Isaacson's "Steve Jobs," a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, the author recalls that Jobs, who was known for his fierce temper, "became angrier than I had ever seen him" during a conversation about Apple's patent lawsuit, which by extension also accused Android of patent infringement.
"Our lawsuit is saying, 'Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off,'" Jobs said, according to Isaacson. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."
And that's kind of the point: part of the way innovation works is that you build on the works of others. That doesn't just mean wholesale copying, but trying to take what works and improve on it -- or take what doesn't work well and figure out a way to make it work better. Steve Jobs did this many, many times, but so have Google and many other companies. It seems rather hypocritical to get all bent out of shape because others are doing the same thing.
Along those lines, Daring Fireball links to a wonderful discussion on this topic by designer Brian Ford, who discusses the idea of "artists copying or stealing" from one another.
Apple didn’t invent the iPod, they stole the idea and made the music industry their own. The way we buy and listen to music is now shaped almost entirely by Apple’s vision.I completely agree with those points. It's quite similar to an earlier post we did about the importance of getting it right rather than being first, which pointed to a wonderful comic from Scott Meyer's Basic Instructions that included this panel:
Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, they stole the idea and reshaped the industry in their own vision. Yes, Apple has “copied” bits and pieces of iOS from other sources —notifications is the obvious example — but overall, the future of the mobile industry has been shaped by Apple.
Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer, they stole the idea and now iOS is the template for the tablet market.
In the end, the best way to sum all this up comes from the T.S. Eliot quote that Ford puts at the end of his blog post. Many people have heard the paraphrased version (often copied and attributed to others) that "good artists copy, great artists steal." But the full T.S. Eliot quote is much more interesting and nuanced:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
Fri, Sep 16th 2011 4:43pm
from the don't-cross-invisible-lines dept
On top of all those themes, the game was to be released on the very platform it criticized: the iPhone.
It didn't last long on the platform.
Just hours after being approved, Apple yanked it from the app store for four separate violations.
15.2 Apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejectedThe key story going around the internet is that Apple is silencing a critic of its platform and business practices, and it's just using the iOS guidelines as a tool to do so.
16.1 Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected
21.1 Apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free
21.2 The collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS
Let's put that aside and focus on something a little different: Apple's arbitrary code enforcement. According to Molleindustria:
I'm very familiar with the App Store policy, and the game is designed to be compliant with it.If Molleindustria took the extra effort to be compliant, how did they end up breaking those above rules? It's hard to say as even Molleindustria doesn't quite know.
If you check the guidelines, Phone Story doesn't really violate any rule except for the generic 'excessively objectionable and crude content' and maybe the 'depiction of abuse of children'. Yes, there's dark humor and violence but it's cartoonish and stylized - way more mellow than a lot of other games on the App Store.
Rules 21.1 and 21.2 are the easy ones to counter. Molleindustria did pledge that all proceeds from the app sales will be going to charity, but that is not done in the app itself. That is Molleindustria giving away the 70% of sales it earns to a charity. It was not asking any buyers to donate to a charity in the app or even outside the app. I guess Apple just didn't want to be part of the charitable aspect.
Rule 15.2 might be a sticking point. Molleindustria admits:
a new version of Phone Story that depicts the violence and abuse of children involved in the electronic manufacturing supply chain in a non-crude and non-objectionable way... will be a difficult taskYet, is depicting near real life conditions of child labor really objectionable? Would a news app reporting on child labor and showing a video of children in the working environment get a pass? Or is the problem that such a depiction is interactive in this case? It isn't like this game is a baby shaker app or anything. The child abuse depicted has an editorial purpose.
Finally, we come to Rule 16.1. Of the four, this rule is probably the most frequently broken by app developers as it is completely subjective by nature. What one app reviewer finds objectionable another would not. In this case, an app reviewer did not find the app objectionable or crude, but someone in Apple's leadership did. How is an app developer supposed to know what people they don't know find objectionable? I know many people who think the various "fart apps" or pimple popping apps on the app store are crude, and many others who think they are funny.
In Apple's case it is a matter of "it knows it when it sees it." Not really the best course of action.
Apple is no stranger to controversy over its arbitrary code enforcement. The first few years of the iPhone's life were rife with stories about apps being banned for doing nothing more than connecting people to content that is freely available online via the Safari browser. For that reason, it really comes as no surprise at all that it would attempt to silence a critic using arbitrary code enforcement.
There is also the possibility that Apple just doesn't think that Molleindustria is a professional satirist. The guidelines actually do have a code in place to allow such "professional satire" to skirt those other rules:
14.2 Professional political satirists and humorists are exempt from the ban on offensive or mean-spirited commentarySo what is it Apple? Is it okay to be mean spirited in our commentary as long as Apple is not the target? I guess so.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 2nd 2011 2:23pm
Man Claims Apple Investigators Pretended To Be SF Police In Searching For Lost iPhone Prototype [Updated: Or Not]
from the the-iPolice dept
Earlier this week, News.com broke a story of yet another Apple employee losing an iPhone prototype in a bar (stop me if you've heard this one before...). Unlike the last one, this one (as far as we know) did not get sold to some tech website for a few thousand dollars. However, reports are emerging that raise some serious questions about how Apple went about trying to retrieve the phone.
A man in San Francisco, Sergio Calderon, claims that six people showed up at his door claiming to be San Francisco Police Department officers, and that they had badges. They claimed they were looking for a lost phone, but didn't say it was a prototype. The original News.com report had said that police together with Apple investigators went to the guy's house -- but the SFPD says they have no record of SFPD being involved in any such action (which it should have if they were involved). The guy whose house was searched says that no one identified themselves as being from Apple. They also threatened him and his family over their immigration status (even though he says they're all legal). Either way, he was nervous and let them search his house (a mistake) and even check out his computer. They didn't find anything.
The guy who was "leading" the search gave Calderon his phone number, and that number apparently belonged to Anthony Colon, a former San Jose police sergeant, who recently went to work for Apple. After the SF Weekly story about this came out, Colon suddenly deleted his LinkedIn page, but lots of folks have screenshots. The SFPD is apparently concerned about this, and says that if Calderon comes to them, they'll investigate whether or not Apple impersonated SFPD officers, which is a crime that is punishable with up to a year in jail. If the claims of Calderon prove true, this could become a pretty big headache for Apple, perhaps bigger than merely having an employee lose a prototype.
Update: Well this is getting weirder. The same SF Police spokesperson who earlier denied SFPD presence now says that the SFPD did, in fact, "assist" Apple with its internal investigation.
Contradicting past statements that no records exist of police involvement in the search for the lost prototype, San Francisco Police Department spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield now tells SF Weekly that "three or four" SFPD officers accompanied two Apple security officials in an unusual search of a Bernal Heights man's home.Of course, this raises other questions about the proper role of the police. If it was a police investigation, then police should have done the search. If it was a private search, then the police should not have been present implying that it was a police search. The latest details certainly makes it sound like these police freelanced, suggested to Calderon that this was a police operation... and then never filed the proper paperwork about the whole thing.
Dangerfield says that, after conferring with Apple and the captain of the Ingleside police station, he has learned that plainclothes SFPD officers went with private Apple detectives to the home of Sergio Calderon, a 22-year-old resident of Bernal Heights. According to Dangerfield, the officers "did not go inside the house," but stood outside while the Apple employees scoured Calderon's home, car, and computer files for any trace of the lost iPhone 5. The phone was not found, and Calderon denies that he ever possessed it.