knight ridder future tablet

It’s hard to believe that someone envisioned tablet PCs 18 years ago, but a dusty video clip from 1994 shows us that there were, in fact, technology visionaries before Steve Jobs (insert “ironic grin” here).

The video shows how newspaper company Knight Ridder saw the news of the future and, darn it, I must say that those guys were spot on with their assumptions. However, what they probably didn’t think their little video would do is seriously hurt Apple’s chances of winning the design patent war against Samsung and other Android tablet manufacturers, a war that is heading towards a conclusion these days.

How did something like this happen? Well, it’s pretty simple. Apple has been accusing Samsung numerous times over the past year or so of ripping off the iPad’s design with its Galaxy Tab slates.

The design in question is a rectangle with rounded corners and a big glass screen, which, for anyone with some sense, doesn’t sound like an awfully original concept. However, as today’s legal system is more complicated than some of us can understand, the legal heads at Apple really had a shot at proving they had invented the whole “rectangle with bla bla…” concept.

That is before this video surfaced, showing off and, hopefully definitively proving, that Apple didn’t, in fact, create a groundbreaking and innovative design concept with the iPad, but rather took something pretty simple and straightforward and refined it and gave it polish.

The 1994 Fiddler/Knight Ridder “tablet” shown in the video below created “the same basic visual impression” as Apple’s D’889 patent for the iPad, Judge Lucy Koh decided recently, basically squashing Apple’s last hope of squeezing some money from Samsung or other technology manufacturers.

Judge Koh’s Court found that “Samsung has raised a substantial question regarding the validity of the D’889 patent on obviousness grounds’’, so, while Apple will probably continue to look for “justice” in courtrooms in the US and all over the globe, Samsung has good chances to be allowed to continue selling and manufacturing Galaxy Tabs.

I’m not one to judge or cast a stone in any direction, but, in this particular case, I would like to offer a sincere and simple opinion, that probably most of you share. Apple, which, indeed, is one of the most innovative technology companies of the past decades, is certainly not honoring its name by continuing to fight pointless legal battle that they don’t even stand a chance to win.

Without having legal studies of any kind (watching every season of the original “Law and Order” doesn’t count, does it?), with some common sense and a bit of reason, I can safely say that hell will freeze before Apple will win any trial referring to one of their products’ designs. I mean, come on, guys, you’re not Picasso and you didn’t invent the straight line, so give up the whole patent folly and start thinking of how you can come up with better, prettier, and snappier devices!

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