Why Can’t Android Manufacturers Just Re-Invent the Wheel?

December 11, 2011
5 17 10 9

    I’ve just stumbled upon an article on Techcrunch that says much of what I’ve been saying in the past about the whole idea that Apple should have legal monopoly over the tablet market because of some patents or because they happened to make a more desirable tablet than anyone else up to that point.

    The thing about the patent system is that it doesn’t account for how businesses are created in the real world. Every now and then you’ll have a company that creates a new “product category”. Well, they actually create a “product” first, but since that product can’t really fit in any existing category, it ends up defining its own product category.

    But you can’t have a “category”, which implies multiple products, without competition, and you can’t have competition belonging to the *same* category without looking quite similar or having the same type of functionality. That’s what being part of a certain product category means in the first place.

    You can’t have an HDTV without creating much of what an HDTV represents. You can’t have a Foursquare competitor, without doing much of what Foursquare does.

    Unfortunately, the patent system doesn’t really take this into account, so this is why Apple in many cases (at least where the judges don’t have much common sense) gets away with all the injunctions and banning of the competitors from the market (although many of these have been reversed lately, or at least Apple has been attacked the same way)

    But make no mistake, if Apple had their way, you wouldn’t have any competition left, because the two ideas are conflicting with each other. You can’t have a “product category” without having competitors that do much of the same, and the way the patent system works now is it gives monopoly power over certain functionality (way too broad in many cases) for a long period of time. If Apple had their way, either the competition would make devices that aren’t really tablets, but different types of products altogether, or their tablets would look like this:

    That is a mock-up made by Gizmodo, according to Apple’s so called “suggestions” (so friendly of them, isn’t it?):

    • Overall shape that isn’t rectangular, or doesn’t have rounded corners.
    • Thick frames rather than a thin rim around the front surface.
    • Front surface that isn’t entirely flat.
    • Profiles that aren’t thin.
    • Cluttered appearance.

    The Techcrunch article makes a pretty good case on why it’s hard for a competitor to create something vastly different from the product that has defined the category, and yet he still suggests the others should somehow “re-invent the wheel”. I’m all for innovation and I think the Android manufacturers should try to differentiate their tablets and phones as much as possible from Apple’s devices, but they won’t be able to change something so fundamental as their main shape. After all, even the iPad has mostly the same shape tablets before it have had, and they are not the only ones who could predict how a tablet will look like in the future or how think it will be.

    This is a mock-up of what was supposed to be the Crunchpad, which if the first device that made me think I would want a tablet, and this was shown maybe a year before we’ve even started hearing rumors about a potential Apple tablet. So who’s to say that Apple didn’t copy its design?

    In the end, what ultimately made the iPad successful was not its hardware so much as it was the software. The main reason why Windows tablets have never succeeded was because they largely were not optimized for touch, and not just the OS, but all 3rd party programs, too, which is why this will continue to remain a major issue for Windows tablets even if the OS itself gets a touch optimized interface.

    Android is in the position to continue what Apple started because both the OS and the apps made for it are optimized for touch, but still, Google will have to push a lot harder to grow its 3rd party ecosystem if they want Android to take full advantage of the growing tablet market.

    Comments

    • Conner Rhoads

      The patent system actually

    • AppleFUD

      The only thing I have left to say on this subject is this,

      if the design elements that are in the iPad are NOT obvious and necessary for such a device why does the iPad have so many of the same design elements seen in the Knight-Ridder tablet (1995) that apple helped with yet failed to include in their design-patent as prior art? Shouldn’t apple be forced to drop these design elements? Shouldn’t apple fans be outraged that apple is using another company’s design elements for their device?

      Here are the design elements the ipad has in common with the Knight-Ridder tablet (1995):

      1. bezel on all sides of the screen so it can be held in either hand and in either orientation
      2. using a flat screen
      3. making it as thin and light as technologically possible while still giving decent battery life (the KR was a concept but we all know mobile devices adhere to this rule)
      4. keeping it as clutter-free as possible to focus on the touch UI/content — the KR is very materialistic
      5. using materials that allow for wireless connection
      6. using some type of “screen protection” (gorilla glass)–though this was not available at the time we all used screen protectors for such devices and thus is obvious that it ought to be used thus most all phones use it now.
      7. the use of some type of color (black is the standard)
      8. corners that don’t have sharp edges — i.e. rounded corners
      9. rounded/bull-nose edges
      10. ensuring that materials are used on the edge that will not lead to easy breakage–like the TouchPad using plastic causing cracks around the speakers — while not seen on the KR this becomes obvious during production or first run.

      There’s more but these incorporate what the ipad and all “pad-like tablets” ultimately look like–a device that generally has a bezel around a screen so you can hold it in any position thus, the bezel is uniform in size which leads to the screen being centered and an attempt to make it as thin and light as possible is standard in mobile devices. Minimalism is also seen on the KR as we see with most mobile device development.

      This is why we have this nugget from the Apple Vs Samsung US court case:

      “When Samsung’s counsel was raising a prior art reference, specifically the ‘‘1994 Knight-Ridder’’ tablet prototype, Koh interjected, ‘‘I think that invalidates the ’889 . . .’’

      Source: http://paidcontent.org/article/419-apple-samsung-dispute-likely-to-turn-on-1994-knight-ridder-tablet/

      Judge Koh thinks the Knight-Ridder tablet is prior art and invalidates apple’s design-patent for the ipad, especially since Apple knew of the Knight-Ridder tablet as they helped with the demo yet FAILED to mention the Knight-Ridder tablet as prior art on their design-patent (2004) — typical apple!!! Then apple turns around with these ridiculous design ideas from “their expert” and include the KR tablet as proof that a tablet can be designed without infringing on the ipad design patent–the problem there is, the only thing the Galaxy Tab has in common with the ipad that isn’t see on the Knight-Ridder tablet is, glass from edge to edge — all the other elements are in the KR tablet. In other words, their design suggestions are complete and utter BS to sidestep the issue of the Knight-Ridder tablet and prior art.

      We should all remember that as a device is developed changes take place and it is modified to function better due to “obvious” issue–this is why the ipad2 has a flat back instead of the curved on the OG ipad had and ios5 has a split keyboard for the ipad, etc. . . and why the CrunchPad developed into what it finally was as the JooJoo and no doubt the Knight-Ridder tablet would have ended up being nearly identical if it had gone through the full stages of development with a multi-touch UI and modern technology.

      The reality is, Apple stole the design for the ipad from the Knight-Ridder tablet. The only major changes to the ipad over the KR tablet is a central home button (no android tablet has this) and gorilla glass that goes edge to edge–arguably an obvious design element considering smartphones have been doing it for years and the tech did not exist at the time of the KR design and it’s a protective element.

      Furthermore, the CrunchPad development (untimely released as the JooJoo over 4+ months before the iPad) demonstrates these same design elements without every seeing or knowing of the ipad — I don’t think they even knew of the KR tablet. In other words, these design elements are necessitated by the device’s functionality.

      Finally, everyone keeps going on and on about how they look like an ipad however, I have yet to see anyone anywhere tell me when they look at the back of these devices that they look alike–they all look very different. The front looks similar because it is a flat LCD and that is all it is. This is tantamount to saying all laptops look the same because you ONLY look at the LCD = ridiculous. The front of the device is only ONE part of it.

      Apple is doing just what they did with the GUI–steal the ideas form another company (NO apple did NOT license anything from Xerox–they paid for a demo), alter things a bit and then try and patent them as their own creation then sue. Sorry apple & apple fans–one again you were 10 years late!!!

      Further reading: OSNEWS article & links from it: http://www.osnews.com/story/25413/The_CrunchPad_is_Proof_the_iPad_was_Obvious

      Here’s an image of the Knight-Ridder tablert — 1995
      http://cdn.walyou.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/04/Tablet-Newspaper.jpg

      Here’s and image of the original mock-up of the CrunchPad — 2008
      http://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/crunchpad-proto.jpg

      And here’s an image of the final product of the CrunchPad, the JooJoo
      http://www.techchee.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/joojoo-tablet-1.jpg

    • AppleFUD

      The only thing I have left to say on this subject is this,

      if the design elements that are in the iPad are NOT obvious and necessary for such a device why does the iPad have so many of the same design elements seen in the Knight-Ridder tablet (1995) that apple helped with yet failed to include in their design-patent as prior art? Shouldn’t apple be forced to drop these design elements? Shouldn’t apple fans be outraged that apple is using another company’s design elements for their device?

      Here are the design elements the ipad has in common with the Knight-Ridder tablet (1995):

      1. bezel on all sides of the screen so it can be held in either hand and in either orientation
      2. using a flat screen
      3. making it as thin and light as technologically possible while still giving decent battery life (the KR was a concept but we all know mobile devices adhere to this rule)
      4. keeping it as clutter-free as possible to focus on the touch UI/content — the KR is very materialistic
      5. using materials that allow for wireless connection
      6. using some type of “screen protection” (gorilla glass)–though this was not available at the time we all used screen protectors for such devices and thus is obvious that it ought to be used thus most all phones use it now.
      7. the use of some type of color (black is the standard)
      8. corners that don’t have sharp edges — i.e. rounded corners
      9. rounded/bull-nose edges
      10. ensuring that materials are used on the edge that will not lead to easy breakage–like the TouchPad using plastic causing cracks around the speakers — while not seen on the KR this becomes obvious during production or first run.

      There’s more but these incorporate what the ipad and all “pad-like tablets” ultimately look like–a device that generally has a bezel around a screen so you can hold it in any position thus, the bezel is uniform in size which leads to the screen being centered and an attempt to make it as thin and light as possible is standard in mobile devices. Minimalism is also seen on the KR as we see with most mobile device development.

      This is why we have this nugget from the Apple Vs Samsung US court case:

      “When Samsung’s counsel was raising a prior art reference, specifically the ‘‘1994 Knight-Ridder’’ tablet prototype, Koh interjected, ‘‘I think that invalidates the ’889 . . .’’

      Source: http://paidcontent.org/article/419-apple-samsung-dispute-likely-to-turn-on-1994-knight-ridder-tablet/

      Judge Koh thinks the Knight-Ridder tablet is prior art and invalidates apple’s design-patent for the ipad, especially since Apple knew of the Knight-Ridder tablet as they helped with the demo yet FAILED to mention the Knight-Ridder tablet as prior art on their design-patent (2004) — typical apple!!! Then apple turns around with these ridiculous design ideas from “their expert” and include the KR tablet as proof that a tablet can be designed without infringing on the ipad design patent–the problem there is, the only thing the Galaxy Tab has in common with the ipad that isn’t see on the Knight-Ridder tablet is, glass from edge to edge — all the other elements are in the KR tablet. In other words, their design suggestions are complete and utter BS to sidestep the issue of the Knight-Ridder tablet and prior art.

      We should all remember that as a device is developed changes take place and it is modified to function better due to “obvious” issue–this is why the ipad2 has a flat back instead of the curved on the OG ipad had and ios5 has a split keyboard for the ipad, etc. . . and why the CrunchPad developed into what it finally was as the JooJoo and no doubt the Knight-Ridder tablet would have ended up being nearly identical if it had gone through the full stages of development with a multi-touch UI and modern technology.

      The reality is, Apple stole the design for the ipad from the Knight-Ridder tablet. The only major changes to the ipad over the KR tablet is a central home button (no android tablet has this) and gorilla glass that goes edge to edge–arguably an obvious design element considering smartphones have been doing it for years and the tech did not exist at the time of the KR design and it’s a protective element.

      Furthermore, the CrunchPad development (untimely released as the JooJoo over 4+ months before the iPad) demonstrates these same design elements without every seeing or knowing of the ipad — I don’t think they even knew of the KR tablet. In other words, these design elements are necessitated by the device’s functionality.

      Finally, everyone keeps going on and on about how they look like an ipad however, I have yet to see anyone anywhere tell me when they look at the back of these devices that they look alike–they all look very different. The front looks similar because it is a flat LCD and that is all it is. This is tantamount to saying all laptops look the same because you ONLY look at the LCD = ridiculous. The front of the device is only ONE part of it.

      Apple is doing just what they did with the GUI–steal the ideas form another company (NO apple did NOT license anything from Xerox–they paid for a demo), alter things a bit and then try and patent them as their own creation then sue. Sorry apple & apple fans–one again you were 10 years late!!!

      Further reading: OSNEWS article & links from it: http://www.osnews.com/story/25413/The_CrunchPad_is_Proof_the_iPad_was_Obvious

      Here’s an image of the Knight-Ridder tablert — 1995
      http://cdn.walyou.com/wp-content/uploads//2011/04/Tablet-Newspaper.jpg

      Here’s and image of the original mock-up of the CrunchPad — 2008
      http://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/crunchpad-proto.jpg

      And here’s an image of the final product of the CrunchPad, the JooJoo
      http://www.techchee.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/joojoo-tablet-1.jpg

    • AppleFUD

      Also. . . as I’ve stated in other comments on this site.

      Apple & MS built their companies on stolen IP during a time when software patents did NOT exist. Now they use software patents to bully and stifle competitors. This is wrong IMO. Companies today should have the same ability to grow their companies in the same ways apple & ms did–without the constant threat of software patent litigation.

      copyright takes care of software infringement, we don’t need patents for software.

      And design patents need to be specific and adhere to a current product, not some generic vague sketch.

    • AppleFUD

      LOL. . . here’s a good video.
      The first IBM ThinkPad was a tablet and once again we see these similar design elements incorporated. Of course, technology moves forward and allows for more minimalism to take place.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99l1YR3DhCo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

      • Flamencolee

        Here is another video of a Fujitsu tablet. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5QRG7nvcqQ

        I agreee. This category was not invented by Apple. They improved upon it.
        Even MP3 players were first created by small companies in China before the iPod. I had an ugly looking 128K MP3 player years before iPod became fashionable.

    • Seaflite

      Agree! When PALM first started talking about a phone, I envisioned a Palm Pilot with touch screen phone function….(Would have looked like an IPhone 10 years befoe the first Iphone came out) but instead they ceated the Treo. (Fortunes might have been different) So who owns the patent on they steering wheel as a HUI (Human User Interface) as a means of controlling a car?? The fact that we have opposable thumbs dictates certain interface parameters and a thin, easily handled piece of glass makes the most sense. Everyone forgets Apple was on life support until the Feds and then the IPod came to rescue them!

    • Kindroid

      Before we get this cart to far ahead of the horse…the issuance of a patent by the Patent Office does not bestow the validity of the patent….only the right to be at the head of the line. What needs to happen is faster litigation of these frivolous patents. Get a half-dozen or so of the worst offenders out of the way….the rest would get sorted out on their own. Once Apple got it through their thick, greedy head….that a rectangular device with a video screen, a few buttons, a camera lens and a speaker or two is not patentable…they would learn to be a little more discerning about where they waste legal dollars.

      • AppleFUD

        the problem with that is, litigation = money. this ultimately allows larger companies to bully smaller companies or kill new companies before they can even get going.

        secondly, now companies like apple & ms are turning to patent trolls and giving patents to them to sue companies. this way they aren’t the ones getting the bad press about lawsuits and patent trolling and you can’t go after a patent troll because they don’t make anything. Checkout apple’s new patent troll buddy: http://techcrunch.com/2011/12/09/apple-made-a-deal-with-the-devil-no-worse-a-patent-troll/

        if there isn’t some sort of punishment for “frivolous” lawsuits or damage to a company due to these lawsuits when the patents are invalidated, beyond lawyer fees, then this will just get worse.

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