BEST OF THE WEB: Why consumers are victims in the aftermath of Apple and Samsung’s patent war

Apple finally won a $US1 billion case against Samsung last week after a trial that lasted more than a year and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The verdict was essentially that Samsung infringed on several patents relating to the iPhone. It copied the design in several different ways – and it’s paid a hefty price.

This outcome was to be expected, especially as Apple dug up memo after memo of Samsung executives comparing their own products to the iPhone and describing how the Californian company’s method was the way to go about smartphone design.

But the fallout might be larger than expected – and it may just hit consumers.

Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times writes that Samsung as it stands will be fine. The biggest losers, he said, are consumers:

If the verdict stands, then the costs of the judgment will be reflected in the cost of mobile devices. Furthermore, other manufacturers will feel the need to buy Apple’s official permission to build useful phones, passing down the possible $20-per-handset fee.

And it’s possible that the next great phone, the one that shames the iPhone the same way that the iPhone buried the Blackberry, will never make it to market. Designing and selling an advanced smartphone just became a dangerous business.

It may seem far-fetched, but it’s an opinion that’s shared by a variety of writers, including some on the Engadget team.

Darren Murph points out that some of Apple’s own features have been used in other smartphones as well. And again, consumers will lose out as companies cower in fear from Apple.

Companies high and low are scrapping potentially amazing product ideas right now for fear of legal retaliation. Not just from Apple – this ruling is way, way bigger than that – but from any company with a patent on [insert obscure shape here]. I hope we’re happy.

The rest of the publication’s writers offer their individual thoughts and all are worth a read – they’re a mixed bag between suggesting the case will help or hurt the industry.

The patent wars are far from over. Whether or not you agree with the verdict, it’s clear there may be some ramifications here that affect users as well as the companies involved.

Can a Kindle crash an airplane?

It’s a familiar request – “please turn off all electronic devices as it interferes with our navigational equipment”.

Most air travellers obey, even though there’s no chance an iPod is going to flummox a giant Boeing aircraft.

But in this interesting piece in The Guardian, it shows that the real story behind the relationship between electronic devices and planes is quite complicated.

There are actually two ways your devices could influence navigational equipment. The first is “intentional emissions”, and the second is “non-intentional emissions”.

Products that use WiFi or electronic signals make up intentional emissions, while other devices such as eReaders – which aren’t connected to wireless signals – actually emit signals due to the circuitry.

And any emissions that leak from a plane can actually degrade signals picked up by the aircraft’s antenna:

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) points to a handful of incidents where a mobile phone has been ‘involved’, although noting that problems had occurred at the same time a passenger happened to be using a mobile device doesn’t exactly represent proof.

And in a piece for Aero magazine in March 2000, Boeing admitted it could not find ‘a definite correlation’ between PEDs and aircraft systems malfunctions. Case closed, then? Well, no.

Of course, the Kindle is an interesting story considering it doesn’t have a signal. Richard Taylor of the CAA says “they represent a much-reduced safety risk compared to mobiles”.

However, there’s no point arguing – you’ll still have to turn them off.

How Steve Jobs’ obsessions with minimalism influenced a revolution

Walter Isaacson wrote what is now the most comprehensive biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs. And in this new piece in the Smithsonian, he expands on that and explains how Jobs’ interest in design has influenced so many other individuals and companies.

It begins back in the 1950s when Jobs admired his own San Francisco home – and he describes how he was influenced by the architecture, even during his final days, as he pointed out homes developed by Joseph Eichler:

“Eichler did a great thing,” Jobs told me on one of our walks around his old neighbourhood, which featured homes in the Eichler style.

“His houses were smart and cheap and good. They brought clean design and simple taste to lower-income people.”

“I love it when you can bring really great design and simple capability to something that doesn’t cost much,” he said.

Of course, the stories are all well-known about how Jobs would insist the design of the inside of a computer be as good as the outside. But Isaacson breaks down here how exactly that obsession formed – including how he would study home appliances:

What made Jobs special, sometimes even a genius, was his fiery instinct for beauty, his talent for creating it and his conviction that it mattered. And because of that, he was able to build a company that became the greatest force for innovative design—and the best proof of its importance—in our time.

A good read for any company influenced by the importance of design.


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