Just a few days ago we found out that Apple not only blocked the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 from launching in Australia, but it also did it in Europe, when a German Court decided to give them the injunction over Samsung’s tablet. If you thought that’s bad, it’s getting worse. Apple now wants the German Court to block the imports of Motorola’s Xoom to Europe as well.
Where does it stop?
I think the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was different enough compared to iPad 2, and I think the Xoom is even more different than iPad 2 in both look and feel, and of course software. If you want to compete in the same space as another company making a type of product, you have to make it somewhat similar, so customers can at least identify it as being the same type of product.
You can’t make a product 100% original, and still compete in the same space as someone else. That’s not how it works in the real business world. When you’re product is actually 100% original, and has no resemblance at all to another product, then you’re not competing in the same space and market anymore. You’ve invented a new type of product, and you’re not a “competitor” to that company anymore.
The sad thing is, patent law doesn’t account for all that. The way the current patent law works is that if you have your product 99% original, and 1% is similar to a concept that someone else has patented, he’s in the right to sue you, even if you didn’t “copy” his product’s feature per se, but you made it similar enough.
Because tablets are more or less the same, and the iPad is the most popular tablet by far in the history of tablets, Apple thinks they can start blocking out most or all of the other tablets from the market, and it appears some Courts, especially the ones outside USA, are starting to agree with them, probably because the way the patent system works there, which isn’t that much different from the one in USA.
What happens if they manage to block the imports of Motorola Xoom, as well? One of the most popular Android tablets so far, if not the most popular, has been the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. I don’t think they care as much about how “similar” a tablet actually is to the iPad, but about how successful it’s about to become.
They don’t care about a complete clone from China, but they do care about the ones from some of the most successful Android manufacturers. And I believe Asus will be either #2 or #1 manufacturer to make the best Android tablets in the future. They seem to be quite innovative in this space, and I actually think the future “tablets” that will get to replace our notebooks, will be tablets that come with a keyboard dock, so you can transform them into a notebook, the same way the Asus Eee Pad Transformer works.
Apple is being anti-competitive
Even if the law allows them to do it, and the judges agree to it, I think ultimately Apple is being anti-competitive here, and they are abusing an already very broken patent system. They are trying to take out their competitors in Court, rather than in the market. They are depriving potentially millions of customers from getting these products. Do they really think that if they do this, they will just buy an iPad instead? Sure, some might, the ones who probably didn’t know about the Galaxy Tab 10.1, or Motorola Xoom in the first place, but even so, they are taking away choices from them. Plus, whoever actually wanted one of these tablets, will get even angrier with Apple for doing this, and will not even consider other products of theirs in the future.
I don’t think this will ultimately hurt either Samsung or Motorola. They will adapt to this new situation, and try to make their tablets as different as possible in the future. But what it does do, is put Apple in an even more negative light for more and more people.