Thursday, August 30, 2012

Samsung vs. Apple vs. the Rest of Us:

I can't bear it. I'm going batty listing to Leo Laport's TWIT show (This Week in Tech) #368. Leo, Adam Curry, Fr. Robert Ballecer and Nilay Patel discuss the Samsung vs.Apple lawsuit, which Samsung lost (so far). I think it was Patel who summed up more or less as follows: Samsung tried to copy Apple's product. Apple made a great product. Samsung's job is not to copy Apple. Samsung's job is to make a different great product.

So let's talk about pianos. Steinway makes a great product. The job of other piano companies must be to make pianos that are distinctly different, not to copy Steinway. 59 keys perhaps instead of 88; white keys only, perhaps. Oval keys, not rectangular. Keys that lift up instead of pressing down. Six pedals instead of three, with entirely different functions.


The piano is a great product, and great pianists are wonderful because they use competing products that share very similar user interfaces. The various piano companies have to innovate under the hood unless they license each other's patents, but the user experience is much the same. And that's great for pianists.

And let's discuss Microsoft Windows. Please imagine that when Microsoft released Windows 95, they licensed the right to their user interface to one manufacturer, Dell perhaps, and all the other companies had to develop some other great, very different-looking product in order to compete. What an awful nightmare! Microsoft did the opposite, standardizing their user interface and encouraging all hardware and software Windows companies to stay with their standards. The resulting consistency was wonderful for us all,

It's terrible that Apple's brilliant iPhone and iPad GUIs are not standards that other companies can be encouraged to follow, for the benefit of all of us. (I know that any company can pay a small fortune to license these GUI rights from Apple; that's not the same thing.)

Leo and his TWIT friends have it wrong. It's time for Apple to follow Bill Gate's insight that consistent GUIs are great for customers. And it's time to admit that the Samsung vs. Apple lawsuit is just an example of how hard cases make bad law.

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