Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Relative Evaluation Report on S1, iPhone

John Paczkowski (via John Gruber):

Authored by Samsung’s product engineering team, the document evaluates everything from the home screen to the browser to the built-in apps on both devices. In each case, it comes up with a recommendation on what Samsung should do going forward, and in most cases, its answer is simple: Make it work more like the iPhone.

I’m torn here. On the one hand, these are such little details. It would be absurd to suggest that Samsung’s Web browser shouldn’t display the number of tabs because Safari does that on the iPhone. On a quick skim, I didn’t see anything that seems like it should be patentable. On the other hand, it’s unsettling that Samsung seems to be going through detail-by-detail to clone Apple’s design work.

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There was this interesting comment on the subtleties of the use of patents in this lawsuit. I don't know if this is a correct explanation (and it certainly does not make the use of patent more justifiable). But it help clear one confusion I had in understanding the role of patents on something that seems more like a 'look and feel' issue (and thus maybe would be falling more under a copyright issue).

I think the coverage of this has been more than a little myopic. I have seen this sort of report, where you "bench" against another product or a competitor and try to find glaring flaws, in other fields and it's usually just a sign that development doesn't sit on their hands all day. (It's also just one of many components to quality work.) Maybe it's not common that they got a beating nearly everywhere, but I don't see it as unequivocally proposing "doing it like Apple" more than they just say "we're getting whipped and we shouldn't". Or rather, they're not copying Apple because they patch places where they didn't previously copy them correctly. This is just QA on their previous copying, in that case.

@Jesper Agreed. They should be able to make their product better. It’s hard to know where to draw the line here, though.

This doesn't seem unsettling to me. In fact, if you were Nokia or Palm or Microsoft or RIM, and you *didn't* do exactly that in 2007, you were doing something seriously wrong. Somebody else just entered your market, and their product was better than yours in pretty much every conceivable way. Better figure out *exactly* what you're doing wrong, and fix these things.

Sure, emotionally, this might feel wrong, since you're profiting from your competitor's work. But it shouldn't be illegal, because that's how every new thing ever in the whole history of mankind has always worked. The stuff you do is always based on what others did before you.

To me, the problem occurs when you're not just fixing the parts where your product is worse than your competition, but imitating another product so closely that people get confused about what they're buying when they're in a store. It seems like Samsung might actually be guilty of trying to make their products look like Apple's in order to confuse customers. *That* would be a problem.

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