Samsung designer says Galaxy Tab 10.1 was in the works before the iPad

August 15, 2012
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Now that Apple has rested its case, Samsung is on the offensive to try to demonstrate to the jury that it didn’t copy the iPhone and iPad when it comes to certain design elements and that it didn’t infringe various Apple patents that cover certain functions also available on some of Samsung’s Android smartphones and tablets.

The task at hand is rather difficult for Samsung especially considering the kind of internal Samsung documents that Apple brought before the jury, including a memo and a very detailed comparison between the iPhone 3GS and the first Galaxy S prototypes.

Both items revealed Samsung’s desire to make more competitive mobile products that would resemble the iPhone when it comes to design and ease of use, although neither one implied that Samsung designers and engineers have to copy the iPhone or iPad to achieve such goals.

Today, Samsung’s Jin Soo Kim, Samsung’s principal designer who took the stand and testified through an interpreter said that the South Korean company was already working on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet at the time the original iPad was launched. Kim talked about an internal e-mail thread, dated January 6, 2010, in which the Galaxy Tab 10.1 was discussed.

Now, if Samsung wants to win this thing, or at least win a decent enough settlement with Apple, it should definitely do better than this. At the time – January 2010 – there were plenty of iPad-related rumors floating around the web, ahead of what was to become one of the most anticipated Apple keynotes, as everyone and their grandmother knew Apple was going to unveil a tablet. So did Samsung start talking about the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a response to the iPad?

Sure, that can’t be proved in court based on email exchanges, but if Samsung was indeed working on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 ahead of the original iPad’s announcement, why did Samsung only launch the Galaxy Tab 7 in fall 2010, roughly half a year after the iPad hit stores? Why was the Galaxy Tab 10.1 introduced only at MWC 2011, only to be redesigned and reannounced at CTIA 2011? Between those trade shows, Apple launched the iPad 2, which prompted Samsung to change certain design elements and features of the 10.1-inch tablet announced at MWC, renaming the original version the Galaxy Tab 10.1v, while the second model became the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that eventually sold in a variety of markets.

Kim did a better job explaining that Samsung’s design choices are related to the functionality of the device, rather than to a need to copy Apple. He explained the use of a flat surface rather than a curved one for the tablet, the bezel’s purpose and the choice in size:

“The bezel acts like a bumper on a car, it is to protect the device, so really it’s for the user,” Kim said.

Kim also went into detail on how the company settled on a size, noting that 10.1-inches was in a sweet spot where Samsung could get a certain amount of displays from a larger piece of glass, without ending up with waste.

“We start with a mother glass, and if you were to increase the display size, or glass to be cut by even 0.1 inch, that instead of 50 glasses from the mother glass you’d end up with 30-35 units only,” Kim explained.

Galaxy Tab 10.1N (above) vs Galaxy Tab 10.1 (below)

Again, we can’t disregard another strangeness in Kim’s testimony – the “sweet spot” argument can be easily countered by the fact that Samsung also launched a variety of Android tablets when it comes to size: 7-inch, 10.1-inch, 8.9-inch and 7.7-inch.

One could also argue here that other Galaxy Tab 10.1 designs are possible – just look at the Galaxy Tab 10.1N version that Samsung created for the German market where the regular Galaxy Tab 10.1 was banned for infringing Apple patents – but Samsung chose not to explore them until it faced unfavorable rulings in certain markets. And the slightly redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1N is not banned in the country.

Leaving such details aside, we’ll also mention Apple’s cross-examination, which referred to other internal Samsung documents that mentioned Google’s explicit requests for Samsung to redesign the 7- and early 10.1-inch Galaxy Tab versions – “make [the Galaxy Tab 10.1] notably different, starting with the front side – as they were “too similar to Apple.” Kim apparently did not receive Google’s memos, as his supervisors never told him about such issues with the Search giant.

In other words, Samsung’s attorneys are trying as best they can to show that Samsung’s smartphone and tablet design and feature choices have been made for purely functional reasons, but they are having, and will have, a rather hard time convincing the jury that’s the only thing that happened, as most of the presented evidence speaks so far in Apple’s favor.

We’ll be back with more news from the U.S. Apple vs Samsung trial as we have plenty of time left on the clock between this giant fight between titans.

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