Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
Today, large companies, especially corporate giants like Samsung, do not surprise users with extraordinary products...
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Spillikins ¹136. Patent Wars – Legal Maneuvers of Apple and HTC
The fall season leaves its mark even on the telecom market. Tedious patent wars, lack of exciting news and boring development of the old stories. It seems like life is preparing to take a nap. There has been very little worthy news and I’m going to cover it now.
I suppose the current patent war might become the longest and most devastating and even affect the patent law. The Apple-Samsung litigation has become so boring that the news no longer interests anyone. The German court has once again banned sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – earlier Apple was suing for copying the functionality of iPad but now their claims concern the design of the front panel which also protected by a patent. If this verdict comes into effect without being contested (which I think is highly unlikely) then Apple will be able to ban any tablet at all. Because the bezel around the screen cannot be a unique part of the design – it is an integral part of this kind of products just like a TV bezel.
Apple lawyers are juggling with terms and claim that a design part cannot be copied which is completely wrong. There are lots of examples on the market of same purpose products looking similar and not because of design copycatting. However, the current patent law allows for various forms of abuse and Apple is playing a dangerous game and may find itself surrounded with hostiles.
The Apple-HTC litigation is headed for a new turn of events. In 2010 Apple accused HTC of violating a number of patents and the Taiwanese manufacturer responded with a counter lawsuit much later. HTC bought out a number of patents from Google and added extra claims to the lawsuit against Apple. Besides phones the lawsuit now concerns MacOS, iPods and iPads and the iTunes and iCloud services. The war is entering a new stage and now it’s not just about banning certain products – it’s a full-scale military action and the opponents can benefit greatly if victorious. A victory will mean compensations for one party and loss of a share of the market for the other. I think the best case scenario is a peaceful settlement between the parties in 2012-2013 if they will be able to negotiate. But so far this outcome is anything but likely.
It seems like manufacturers are competing at feeding promises to users. Samsung promised to update all Bada phones to 2.x version without telling any specific dates. However, the post on the official Twitter account can be interpreted several ways – they did not specify any countries and may be the update will be available in Europe but not in all countries and not all phones. I don’t think all phones will receive updates – most likely the cheaper models won’t be updated. This has been the usual practice I think the company will follow it.
Sony Ericsson follows Samsung and promises Android Ice Cream Sandwich update for all Xperia phones as soon as it will be released. This information comes from a comment of one of the company’s manager to a small website. It’s amazing how quickly news spreads nowadays and there are pros and cons to that. And, unfortunately, some managers misinterpret some of possible actions as something that will happen for sure. I have interviewed a top manager of a major company recently and he told me a lot of fascinating stuff which after I checked it turned out to be mostly false – just arbitrary speculations of an individual that had nothing to do with reality. We should always be a bit skeptical. I much rather prefer to speak of what companies actually do than mull over maybes and tomorrows.
We also want to look into the future and, for example, learn the new names of operating systems. Do Tango and Apollo ring any bell in regard to Windows Phone 7? I don’t think so. But there quite a few people who wait for these updates for their phones simply because they heard these names somewhere. I find it weird to be waiting for the Tango update which is even weaker than Mango because it is meant for the cheaper phones (simplified versions of phones with lower system requirements). It’s a unique situation when rumors create demand and people don’t even know what they are waiting for. It is similar to a certain extent to what Apple has done to create demand. People usually buy Apple products without knowing their specs or functionality etc. They buy pig in a poke. Other companies are trying to learn this trick of creating demand before the actual product exists.
I want to conclude this updates topic with the news that Nokia has declared with a quite a pomp support of Microsoft Business App for Symbian Belle. When there is no good news you have to make them up and Nokia is doing it. One year ago Nokia announced launching Microsoft Office Communicator – it never became something big for Nokia smartphones and there are very few users of this pack. Nokia does not give us any exact numbers because they don’t want to look bad. Now, in September 2011 the company announces an update for this pack – Microsoft Lync 2010. It was Microsoft who changed the name – Nokia did nothing but grabbed the opportunity and issued a press release.
You didn’t think they got away without a bunch of promises? Now they promise support for MS Word and Excel on Symbian in 2012 and say that this will attract a lot of new buyers. As if there were no third party support for MS documents (which actually works better than Microsoft’s own mobile software).
While the last surviving fans of Nokia are waiting for N9 sales to begin the company is struggling with numerous internal issues. Even the date of the first Nokia N9 shipments is not known. It must happen in September, but no one knows the exact date. The advertising engine is working well though. Branded Nokia stores shout that only inside you can buy Nokia N9, but you will be disappointed because you cannot buy anything at the moment.
If before Nokia was an undisputed leader on the smartphone market in Russia, now it is overshadowed by Samsung. In other countries the tendency is the same, but Russia was always the stronghold for Nokia. Things could not stay as they were anyway, because miracles do not happen in this world. We can discuss for hours what happened and who is to blame, but the fact remains the same – Nokia is losing ground in Russia, where it used to dominate for years. Its products are not as popular as before and the brand image is far from alluring. According to representatives of Samsung in Russia their success is driven by “an impressive portfolio of models based on Android, Windows Phone and Bada”. People from Nokia do not comment their market share in Russia and use only data, which shows all advantages of the Finnish manufacturer.
I think in October the demise of Nokia will be even more prominent when 3rd quarter performance indicators will shock many. Poor management is not the only explanation.
J.D. Power and Associates published interesting data from the US market. They enquired about satisfaction levels of customers in connection with devices offered by various manufacturers. It is clear that Nokia is conspicuous by its absence in North America, but it is not apparent what the cause is and what is the reason of these developments. The satisfaction leader is Apple followed by HTC, which is a huge step forward for the company. Position No 3 for Motorola is surprising as even at home it is losing to many rivals.
According to Digitimes Intel decided to stop developing MeeGo and concentrate on hardware solutions for Android/WP7. In the official commentary from Intel it is mentioned that the company is committed to MeeGo and there is no feedback to the rumors. Intel will not lose anything, because nobody is planning to produce tablets on MeeGo (despite numerous promises before), and companies, which suggested MeeGo could be an alternative to Windows on netbooks do not do it any more (Samsung is a prime example of the trend).
The first and last MeeGo phone Nokia N9 is still not in stores, but this shot will miss the target anyway, as the Nokia CEO promised to kill MeeGo even if N9 becomes a bestseller.
The last chance for MeeGo is the support of the community, which failed to grow considerably enough. Maybe some newcomers will want to use MeeGo in their phones, but this scenario looks improbable now. For MeeGo to compete with Android/iOS huge investments are required, but second tier manufacturers are not capable of such a feat. As we know a good OS is not enough and WebOS exemplifies this correlation. One of the key elements is promotion and small companies are not that good in this respect.
Even if MeeGo does not disappear from the market within months we will not see many related products. We may get a couple of models from unknown companies followed by a final disappearance. Without the support of serious players MeeGo will die. The decision of Intel to ditch the project highlights its deteriorating status and absence of hopes for success. MeeGo was a non-starter, because there were no sales yet and amounts of Nokia N9 to be available for purchase will be negligible.
I think MeeGo was about to become mature enough to compete with iOS and Android in future. It is definitely ahead of Windows Phone 7 Mango, but Nokia got scared and killed a rival for WP7. There will be no good news for MeeGo.
Long time ago we discussed with one of the Maemo/Meego masterminds his hopes for different manufacturers to come up with variants of the OS. Those dreams came true in Android. Baidu from China created its own version of Android with proprietary apps and new interface solutions. Moreover, Baidu is planning to develop the project further. I think the popularity of the OS among third party developers heralds its maturity.
On one of websites appeared photos of a new Blackberry prototype, which may be the first RIM model in the premium segment. It usually means a pair model with standard design and lower price. The phone looks unusual and can be interesting for some people if it costs a lot.
I think it is highly logical for RIM to offer premium versions of its models. Troubled manufacturers always look for potential growth and premium solutions are quite popular in such cases. They feature standard characteristics, but boast exquisite body materials, design and high price.
Does RIM have problems? The answer is a resounding yes! Last week major shareholders sent the letter to the management urging them to change the current strategy and start doing something to return to winning ways.
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Published 17 September 2011
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