As it turns out, Apple isn’t above the law (and which is a bit behind the times)

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When Apple posted an apology on its UK website last month as part of the price it paid in losing a lawsuit brought by Samsung, it didn’t endear itself well to the High Court.

The lawsuit was filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Earlier this week, the high Court judge ordered Apple to take down the notice they did publish on October 25 within 24 hours and replace it with a new statement that complies with the legal order.

That first notice looked like this:

As Bloomberg reported on November 1, Apple’s post inserted four paragraphs including excerpts of the original court ruling regarding the tablets’ coolness that appear to favour Apple; and details of German lawsuits about similar issues that the court said weren’t true.

Bloomberg noted:

[...] “I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this,” Judge Robin Jacob said today. “That is a plain breach of the order.” [...] The notice created the "impression that the U.K. court is out of step with other courts," Henry Carr, Samsung’s lawyer, said in a filing. “It was clear the judges were not happy with what Apple had done," Gary Moss, a lawyer at EIP Partnership LLP who isn’t involved in the case but attended today’s hearing, said in a phone interview. “They thought Apple was playing fast and loose."

So Apple bit the bullet and published a new notice a few days ago, which looks like this:

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The company also placed the same wording in ads in a number of UK national newspapers. So, all well and good and surely the end of the matter.

Not exactly.

Apple played a hidden tech card with a bit of JavaScript code, says Geekosystem this weekend, that tries to hide the notice on the website:

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[...] While it may at first simply seem like something that’s included for aesthetic reasons, as the JavaScript’s function is to resize the iPad banner, it’s telling that the code is included on the U.K. homepage. Some of the other versions of the homepage resize in the same way, but it’s certainly not universal. Canada and Japan both resize, but not the regular homepage for the United States. By resizing the banner, the JavaScript makes it to where users will always need to scroll down in order to see Apple’s statement. Even though the other versions of the site have the same layout, minus the statement about Samsung, they don’t include the JavaScript bit in question.

I wonder if the High Court will regard this as Apple playing fast and loose even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do; if so, will there be consequences for Apple?

What this suggests to me, more than anything else, is that court-ordered apology-type notices, such as in this case, were designed in the age of print where the only way to be contrite publicly in obeying a court order was to publish your notice in a mass medium, eg, one or more national newspapers.

Such mass media were the only means available to do this.

Now there’s the internet and the world wide web – and note: they’ve been around for some decades – and far more sophisticated publishing methods and tools than in those days of yore.

Perhaps in the future of court orders such as this, the law needs to consider how a notice is published along with what the notice actually says.

And one other note: take a look at what Apple UK’s website, and the notice concerned, look like on a mobile device, in this case, my Samsung Galaxy SII:

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Even though the screenshots are 50 percent actual size, Apple’s UK website is impossible on a mobile device. Looks even worse on an iPhone 4S with its smaller screen (3.5 inches versus the SII’s 4.3 inches).

Surely not fast and loose with mobile as well…

[Update Nov 9:] CNET reports that Apple has quietly pulled the apology-hiding code from its UK website:

[...] The Apple U.K. Web site now displays two alternating fixed-sized images of the iPad Mini and the new iPad with Retina display – refreshing the page cycles between the two recently launched products – while the four boxes underneath are no longer fixed to the bottom of the display. Although the central images are still large and many displays require the user to scroll down, the forced-scrolling "resize" code is no longer loaded into the Web site’s code.

Though the code still exists on Apple’s servers (it can be found here), it is no longer called upon when the U.K. Web site loads up.

Looks like common sense prevailed. Or was it legal or other pressure? Apple’s not saying anything, says CNET.

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Just because Apple had to doesn’t mean they want to

Apple has posted a statement on its UK website that is the apology it was ordered to publish by a High Court judge as one result of losing the case in a lawsuit filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Take a look at the statement as shown in this screenshot (or see it on Apple’s website):

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The wording of the judgement is quite interesting, especially the final paragraph referencing the upholding of Apple’s claims in other jurisdictions. But do you notice anything more interesting than the words?

How about the layout. Nice, isn’t it? Makes good use of white space for a clean uncluttered look that’s typical of Apple’s minimalism at work.

Maybe it’s extreme minimalism at work. There’s no branding of any type at all, no logo, no company description anywhere, no links to anything else on the website.

In short, there are no suggestions at first glance that you’re on an Apple website.

Such minimalism on webs pages isn’t new for Apple. Yet in content that’s also a statement of one type of another, the page concerned fully fits in with overall site look and feel. Take this example – the letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook posted on the US website last month that apologises for the maps debacle:

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With this, notice the branding, the logo, the links, all consistent with the rest of the website. Quite a difference in presentation.

With the Samsung apology notice, the only link I could find to it from anywhere on the Apple website is one in the footer on the Apple UK home page.

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In the Samsung case, the legal judgement required Apply to publish the apology wording on their UK website. it didn’t say how they had to do it. They also have to take advertisements in some of the UK’s national newspapers and repeat the apology. I haven’t seen any such ad yet. I wonder how they’ll address that. Extreme minimalism, I expect.

(Via CNET UK)

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Apple, Samsung and pots and kettles

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Apple’s lawyers had their day in the US last week in winning the Apple vs Samsung lawsuit over infringement of Apple’s software and design patents regarding the iPhone that saw Samsung ordered to pay Apple a billion dollars in damages.

Some say the outcome of this legal dispute has huge implications for Samsung and other Android-smartphone makers in the future. The Economist reckons the impact on Samsung’s bottom line should be modest “because a ban will affect older devices, not the firm’s snazzy new Galaxy phones.”

But the case still has big implications for the tech industry, which is facing a tsunami of patent-related lawsuits. It shows how patents covering the look and feel of devices are increasingly being “weaponised” by their holders. It highlights the propensity of juries to award huge damages in intellectual-property disputes. And it will give added ammunition to those who feel that the current system of granting and policing tech patents in America needs to be overhauled.

[...] The jury in San Jose [California] concluded that Samsung had violated several of Apple’s utility patents covering things such as bounce-back scrolling, which makes such things as on-screen icons and web pages rebound if swiped too far, and tap-to-zoom functionality, which makes it easy to zero in on, say, an image or a map. It also said the South Korean company had copied the overall look of the iPhone, including the rounded corners of icons, thus breaching several of Apple’s design patents. To add insult to injury, the jurors tossed out the South Korean firm’s claims that Apple had ripped off some of its own innovations.

It does seem that Apple itself is no stranger to copying other people’s ideas – a view apparently articulated by founder Steve Jobs:

Picasso had a saying: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

With the lawsuit, its concurrent publicity out into the mainstream, and views like those of Jobs, it’s surely no surprise if you politely yawn at any protagonist’s claim that the other stole its intellectual property.

It gives the tagline “Galaxy S3: the most amazing iPhone yet” you see in the spoof ad above,  circulating on Facebook this week, some credibility and elevates it above being simply amusing.

Yep, big and expensive pots and kettles.

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FT names Steve Jobs their Man of The Year

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Mark Zuckerberg can be Time’s person of the year but here we have the FT’s man of the year – Steve Jobs, the man behind the continuing success of Apple and those so-gorgeous products everyone desires that include iPhone, iPad, Macbook and more.

The Financial Times says Jobs is a “Silicon Valley visionary who put Apple on top”:

[…] When Steven Paul Jobs first hit the headlines, he was younger even than Mark Zuckerberg is now. Long before it was cool to be a nerd, his formative role in popularising the personal computer, and Apple’s initial public offering on Wall Street – which came when Mr Jobs was still only 25 – made him the tech industry’s first rock star.

And this description fits well as a caption to the rather Machiavellian-looking Jobs in the FT cartoon above:

[…] Critics often talk disparagingly of the “reality distortion field” generated by the Apple boss: his ability to convince onlookers that technologies that would seem unformed in other hands have reached a peak of perfection at Apple. Generating this suspension of disbelief is essential to stirring up demand for gadgets most consumers had no idea they needed, and is an art form of which Mr Jobs has long been the acknowledged master.

A worthy winner, I say! Read the detailed story at the FT.

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Apple’s tablet as the killer e-reader

appletabletEllee Seymour asked me if I’ve tried an e-reader yet, one of those gadgets that you use to read e-books. Something like a Sony Reader, perhaps, or an Amazon Kindle.

I told Ellee that I hadn’t yet.

I do read a great deal of material on a computer screen, either a laptop or desktop, but not on a device designed only for that purpose. I sometimes read content on the iPhone, especially in planes and other public transport, but that’s pretty hard work on such a small screen.

For me, the reason’s simple: devices like Sony’s and the Kindle are terrific, they’re great and do their jobs well, but that’s not enough. I want a portable device that lets me read e-books and other content as I wish. It also needs to be a window onto a wider connected and unrestricted world where I decide what I want to do, what I want to read, in a package that let’s me interact with that content in a way that I don’t have to squint to see anything. It’s got to be dead easy and a genuine pleasure to use.

It ought to be affordable, too, although I might be willing to pay a premium for an elegance of form and function from a trusted name and/or a device that really breaks new ground (as the iPhone and Apple’s App Store did.). And the package must have enough oomph to do things in a trice, more or less.

Sounds rather like any contemporary laptop computer you can think of, doesn’t it?

So that’s the logical reason taken care of. Let’s look at my emotional reason: basically, there isn’t a device I’ve seen yet that makes me think I absolutely, simply, definitely have got to have one, that I’d do literally anything to acquire one.

Then I read Impact of ‘iSlate’ Could Rival iPhone in the New York Times yesterday which beautifully captures that emotional reason:

[…] Many people like their e-readers (not least because they save them from having to haul around books, newspapers and magazines) but I’ve yet to meet anyone who loves them. That’s the key. If a really great e-reader appeared, the market would explode. The e-reader is waiting for a killer product, just as the MP3 player was before Apple’s iPod. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, it made such a sexy one that many more people wanted to buy it. That’s what it is promising to do again.

The desirability in the promise of ‘more.’ That says it perfectly.

Will Apple’s rumoured new device be called ‘iSlate’? Will it look even remotely like the image you see above that AppleInsider published last July? Will it have any major focus on e-books?

Who knows. Nobody for sure outside some at Apple. Expect news at Apple’s special event on January 26. Probably.

Meanwhile, it’s fun to speculate. Think about this as well:

  • Publishers Struggle with Strategies on When to Release Their E-Books (Daily Finance). For all their sound and fury, e-book sales accounted for no more than 4% of all book sales in 2009. That figure will certainly rise in 2010. With all manner of e-readers on the market (or about to hit), the boom of reading-related smartphone apps, and Apple appearing to prepare a tablet device (rumored name: iSlate) for its debut on January 26, e-book sales may hit $500 million in the next 12 months, Forrester Research projects. […]
  • Amazon e-book sales overtake print for first time (The Guardian). Spare a thought for the humble hardback this Christmas. It seems the traditional giftwrapped tome is being trumped by downloads, after Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books for the first time on Christmas Day. As people rushed to fill their freshly unwrapped e-readers – one of the top-selling gadgets this festive season – the online retailer said sales at its electronic book store quickly overtook orders for physical books. Its own e-reader, the Kindle, is now the most popular gift in Amazon’s history. […]

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Apple’s corporate omerta and share price growth

appledark At lunchtime, I was reading “Steve Jobs: The man who polished Apple,” a most excellent feature about Steve Jobs and Apple written by Times journalist Bryan Appleyard and published in the Times Online (and probably in the newspaper itself as well).

While there’s copious biographical, anecdotal and other information about Steve Jobs and Apple almost anywhere you care to look, to me Appleyard’s feature presents some absorbing information in a way that’s new to me, and makes for compelling reading.

And while it’s a fascinating picture of the narcissistic Jobs, what really focused my attention were a few explicit paragraphs about Apple itself:

[...] Apple Inc is worth around $140 billion. But is it worth anything without Jobs? It is a company formed around his personality and inspiration. It is also the most watched, envied, admired and adored company in the world. So how, you may wonder, was it possible for Jobs to put out such a statement four months before a liver transplant? And how was it possible for consumer capitalism’s greatest hero to pull off the Memphis Liver Caper in absolute secrecy?

The answer is that, along with computers, iPhones and iPods, secrecy is one of Apple’s signature products. A cult of corporate omerta – the mafia code of silence – is ruthlessly enforced, with employees sacked for leaks and careless talk. Executives feed deliberate misinformation into one part of the company so that any leak can be traced back to its source. Workers on sensitive projects have to pass through many layers of security. Once at their desks or benches, they are monitored by cameras and they must cover up devices with black cloaks and turn on red warning lights when they are uncovered. “The secrecy is beyond fastidious and is in fact insultingly petty and political,” says one employee on the anonymous corporate reporting site Glassdoor.com, “and often is an impediment to actually getting one’s work done.”

Here’s a chart showing Apple’s share price over the year to date:

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If I were an investor in Apple, I wouldn’t be too unhappy. For the moment.

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