Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

A lot has been written and said about the Apple-Samsung trial, in which Apple accused Samsung of copying certain features of Apple products, specifically the iPhone and iPad. Some people cry foul and point out that Apple does not have a monopoly on black rectangles with rounded corners. Well, of course it doesn't. This trial isn't just about industrial design, or software "look and feel"—although to the casual observer it may seem to be primarily about these surface details.

This trial is about memory—bad, in Apple's case. Two (of several) possible interpretations:

Claim 1: Apple seems to have a bad memory because it keeps repeating past mistakes, such as refusing to license its technology and losing market share as competitors produce lower-priced alternatives, forcing Apple to resort to (unjust) litigation to protect its margins.

Claim 2: Apple has bad memories of being screwed over, and wants to set things aright. In short, it's payback time. Now that it has more money than some national governments, it can afford to sic its legal team on just about anyone who crosses it. In short: "thermonuclear war" on its frenemies.

Both No. 1 and No. 2 seem plausible, and neither exactly paints a flattering picture (i.e. Apple as sore loser to Samsung, Apple as bully). But on closer examination, No. 2 has more merit, and Apple even looks for all the world like a legitimately aggrieved victim, despite its current financial success. Why?

Contrary to popular perception, Apple did not steal its ideas from Xerox, but in fact Apple has had its intellectual property stolen before—and, in at least one case, by a trusted partner.

So...when you've been stabbed in the back, not once, not twice, but multiple times, and undergone a near-death experience, wouldn't that make you...a bit sensitive to betrayal?

As I write this, the trial is still underway. Regardless of the outcome, may the truth always prevail.
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