The Counterintuitive Winner in the Landmark Samsung vs Apple Trial

The landmark Apple vs. Samsung intellectual property trial ended in an award for Apple totaling $1,049,343,540  in damages, while countersuing party Samsung was granted a total of $0 in damages. That’s not a typo, that’s a zero.  Apple roped in over 30 devices infringing more than a dozen patents. All this while infuriating federal judge Lucy Koh who’s been the most entertaining part of this circus:

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For reference, let’s have a look at the highest-profile offending device:

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No wait, that’s not it. Can we pull up the right image?

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Wait that’s not it either.

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That’s the one.

So Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung ended in a $1 billion award. Queue the tech press soiling their ishorts while writing up gregarious headlines like APPLE WINS BIG!

Actually, no.  This is a pretty huge win for Samsung, for the following reasons:

1. When a market leader in the premium space goes on offense, the target is immediately elevated to direct competition in the minds of the media.  It’s a classic marketing slip up where the market leader signals to the market that competitor X is a serious threat.  Don’t believe me?  Ok, when was the last time BMW sued Mazda?  Never, you say? Exactly my point.

2. Samsung rakes in 1 billion USD in just over 2.2 days.  Do the math.  This isn’t much of a penalty in absolute terms.

3. Besides, Samsung will (potentially) pay 1 billion USD to secure the #2 spot in the mobile market. That’s a bargain when you think about it in absolute terms. I bet RIM would be in far better shape today if it had infringed.  Same goes for Nokia.

4. Judge Koh orders an injunction on Samsung selling phones in the US? I highly doubt it. Putting aside the logistical nightmare, that would leave  American buyers the choice between the iPhones, Windows phones, and this piece of crap.

5. Just imagine the blowback on Apple if an (unlikely) injunction does come into force. Apple will scramble to put together a generous licensing agreement. Samsung makes chips in the iphone, so they’ll play ball.  It’s probably even money for Samsung in the long term. (Update: it seems blowback is already hitting Apple.)

6. This entire exercise likely puts Apple in the red since Google/Motorola is now suing Apple in turn.

7. Apple was forced to divulge it’s playbook into the public record because the outcome hinged on the jury’s impressions of the trial in addition to the law.  That’s a fail for normally uber-secretive Apple.

8. Oh, and let’s not forget appeals, where “overwhelming wins” more often get scaled back than not.

So don’t believe the hype.  Samsung took a risk, and it seems to have paid off.   The real loser today is Google, who’s ecosystem is under attack, which should raise doubt in the minds of smartphone buyers.  That uncertainty, timed just before the iPhone 5 release, is worth far more than any settlement.

Best Halloween Costume Ever

Can you round up two spare iPads or iPhones for the evening?  If so, you too can make this amazing “hole through the chest” zombie costume. Check out the video below:

From Gizmodo: “It’s really pretty simple. You strap one iPad 2 to your front, one to your back, and you start a FaceTime chat between them.”  Add a shirt with holes, some fake blood and you’re set.  Roaming around Trick or Treating? No problem: simply carry a portable Wi-Fi hotspot in your pocket.

Brilliant!

Google Acquires Motorola Mobility: The Big Picture

Well played Google, well played. The post-Schmidt giant has been busy competing against Facebook, competing against Facebook again, and now buying their very own mobile handset manufacturing outlet.

“It’s About the Patents!”

Prior to the Motorola Mobility purchase, Google’s weak hand of 701 patents pales in comparison to Microsoft, who was granted 3,121 patents just in 2010. Acutely aware of its vulnerability to patent lawsuits, Google is staffing up on patent lawyers, clerks and legal experts. Just one month ago, Google’s job openings included a number of patent-related positions, including a patent agent, patent counsel, patent docketing clerk, patent litigation counsel, patent paralegal, and a strategic patent licensing and acquisitions manager. So it seems likely the move was focused squarely on shoring up defenses against patent trolls. Afterall, Google stacked up enough legal firepower needed to put up a strong legal defense. Google also recently criticized Microsoft and Apple of trying eviscerate Android with a patent guillotine rather than competing in the market.

Buying Motorola means buying Motorola’s patents, as Google specifically pointed out in its blog post today. You can almost feel the disdain for our absurdly screwed up IP patent system in the writer’s prose:

“Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

The Android Satellites

While Google has been left untouched, Apple filed a number of rather lame-ass motions targeting Android device makers Samsung and HTC. Even Techcrunch railed against Apple’s actions (shocking!). Oh, and Microsoft also decided to pile up on HTC too. Care to guess whether HTC’s top brass is supportive of Google’s latest acquisition? Let’s see what they have to say about this:

I'm Smiling on the Inside.


“We welcome the news of today‘s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
– HTC CEO Peter Chou

Oh I bet you do Peter.

HTC isn’t the only party to take sides: virtually every other handset maker chimed in with either enthusiastic praise, or at least cautious optimism. Regardless, the biggest winners (other than Google) are the smaller satellites in the Android galaxy, who would probably be forced to walk into Microsoft’s waiting arms. The Motorola acquisition is not just lawsuit insurance – it’s market marginalization insurance.

The True Mark of Genius is Turning Disadvantage Into Advantage.

Picture this: you walk into a Verizon store in the future, determined not to buy an iPhone. You have a few choices, here, but it boils down to the Google-Motorola dynamic duo or Windows Mobile on Nokia phone. Ah, yes Nokia; The company which Microsoft invested in earlier this year. They did so to ensure a locked-in downstream mobile handset licensee for Windows Mobile. Nokia, who has a trickle of a market share in the two largest mobile markets in the world.

"Wait they bought Motorola, which means we're stuck with.. aww shit."

I suppose it’s a sweet deal for struggling Nokia, who was quick to go to press today:

“This further reinforces our belief that opportunities for the growth of Nokia’s smartphone business will be greatest with Windows Phone. Additionally, with our respective intellectual property portfolios, Nokia and Microsoft are working together to build and nurture an innovative ecosystem that benefits consumers, operators, developers and other device manufacturers.”

In other words, there are meetings happening in Redmond right now focused on how to make the best of a competitive disadvantage.

The Freedom to Run Android

You know what else Google now owns? 29% of the Android market in the U.S.

That’s a large enough share to drive Samsung and HTC to deliver user experiences consistent with Google’s vision, or else Motorola will. The mobile handset makers are probably wondering if Motorola will enjoy special benefits or access to Google itself. While Motorola is playing down the possibility, it’s likely Motorola will be the reference standard. That means a previously toothless Google couldn’t do much to combat rampant skinning which leads to Android phones with confusing interfaces which look like ass. Google’s primary advantage over the iPhones has been hardware selection. Apple’s competitive advantage over Android has always been the kind of slick user experience only possible with end-to-end control of the product. The Motorola acquisition allows Google, at least on paper, to have it both ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google starts making noise about how handset makers should compete on hardware horsepower and quality build, etc. If I were Larry Page, that’s what I would do. That and pick up a shiny new Tesla.

Learning The Lessons of GoogleTV

Earlier in the year, GoogleTV became a casualty of an entertainment industry which withheld critical support for the internet television devices. Google’s management apparently learned from that painful experience that locking down technical talent isn’t enough to come out ahead. It also appears Google is no longer willing to lead its from behind, but rather drive their partners kicking and screaming towards a a better user experience. All it cost was 12 billion. The price appears to be worth it.

Using Google+? Have an iPhone? Here’s How to Cure Android App Envy.

Since you’re reading this blog, I’m pretty sure you are aware of Google’s release of the long-awaited Google+. I’ll resist the banal references to a “Facebook killer” and I’ll also post additional thoughts as a user when I have time this weekend.

Unfortunately, a native iPhone app is in iTunes review limbo, even as a Google+ Android app was ready to go on release day. But there’s no need to have app envy. If you simply point Safari to plus.google.com, you’ll be able to access Google+ within your iPhone, providing you access to nearly everything available on the web or on Android phones.

Even better, all you geek-chic iPhone users can enjoy the convenience of an “app” right now, by following three simple steps. First, navigate over to plus.google.com within Safari on iOS as above. Next, notice the menu bar at the bottom of the screen up there. Click the share icon (third from the left). Now click on “Add to Home screen” as shown below, to the left. You’ll see an icon show up which looks exactly like the one shown below to the right (in the lower right hand corner of the icon grid).

There's our icon!

Congratulations, you’re all set. You may have noticed I mentioned iPhone users can do “almost everything” within Safari – yes, there are two minor limitations. The HTML5 version you’ve just linked to from your apps pages will not run Huddle (group chat) nor upload photos (thanks Hillary Hartley for the pointer). However, core Google+ functionality is all there, including  Stream, Circles, Profile, and Notifications (within the app).

Enjoy.

Update 2011.7.20: The new iphone app is available. No need for a hack now.

iPad’s Competition Crossroads Illustrated

I usually don’t blog about gadgets (even my iphone based posts are usually about lines at the apple store on release day or poor mobile tower coverage and whatnot). However, I’m a sucker for competitive strategy games (chess anyone?) and infographics. So when Section Design combined the two for publication in Courrier Japon Magazine in Tokyo, I couldn’t help blog about it. according to the creator, the goal is to “illustrate the introduction of the iPad and how many devices in different markets are now finding themselves in direction competition to the power of the iPad and the Apps Store.” Original post here.