Cult of Android, the online antidote to the online Cult of Mac, announced on 13 September, “Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I was making this up, but unfortunately I’m not… They’ve actually filed a lawsuit against an online Polish grocery site…”
Cult of Android’s Vincent Messina was, of course, writing about Apple Inc. Fresh from a colossal victory against rival mobile colossus Samsung, it was reported that Apple’s lawyers had now targeted an online Polish grocer called A.pl. ‘A’ is the first letter of the alphabet. .pl is the web suffix for Poland. A marketing argument is thus that A.pl will appear very near the top of any alphabetic listing of online grocers in Poland.
The problem, however, seems to be that A.pl sells apples; and that’s getting perilously close to trading off. But worse than that, A.pl has (had, it seems to have removed it), a picture of an apple; and A.pl’s apple looks too similar to Apple’s apple for Apple’s lawyers.
Two days earlier, Reuters had summarized the argument. “‘Apple brand is widely recognized and the company says that A.pl, by using the name that sounds similar, is using Apple’s reputation,’ patent office spokesman Adam Taukert said.”
“A.pl chief executive Radoslaw Celinski said: ‘The accusation is ludicrous’.”
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is famous for having a different and more liberal attitude towards patents, said, “I hate it.” He was, however, talking about Apple’s victory over Samsung. His views on Apple Vs A.pl are not yet known.
Back on 7 August I suggested that Microsoft’s plan for its own tablet was a big mistake (A Microsoft-made tablet? Big mistake). I may have been wrong – but only if it is part of a completely new and wider strategy.
Let’s look at the Big 4: Apple, Google, Microsoft and The User.
Microsoft’s strategy is built on the predominance and continued dominance of the PC. Without the PC there is only a small Microsoft – and the PC is in decline, and possibly a terminal decline. Microsoft’s strategy is in decline.
Apple’s strategy is built around owning everything, both hardware and software – and charging an obscene price for that monopoly. So far it has worked very successfully; but if you listen to the undercurrents from The User there is growing User dismay over both the price of that monopoly, and the frequency with which loyal subjects are asked to dump existing product and buy new product. Apple’s strategy is at the apex, and the only way is down (with a slight delay when it dumps OS/X in favour of desktop iOS).
Google’s strategy is to base everything in the cloud, and to own the cloud. This makes distribution very, very cheap, and upgrades cheap, seamless and invisible to the User. Google is proving very, very successful in this strategy.
But what about The User? The User’s strategy is to demand everything now, preferably free (but at least very cheap), anywhere and anytime. Microsoft provides none of this. Apple provides some, but not much, of this. Google provides it all.
So on current strategies, Microsoft is doomed, Apple will decline while Google will grow and thrive. (Incidentally, Amazon seems to have seen the writing, and I rather suspect that all three will have to watch out for Amazon in a few years time.)
But what if Microsoft has also finally come to its senses? What if the Microsoft tablet is not just a one-off foray into hardware, but part of a completely new strategy aimed at combining Apple’s hardware/software monopoly approach with Google’s cloud efficiency?
There are growing rumours that Microsoft is about to switch from, say, 3-yearly Windows releases to yearly releases. This makes no sense whatsoever under the current strategy. Expecting users to buy a new operating system every year won’t wash. Unless…
Let’s say that the MS plan is not new operating systems delivered in box or on disk, but new downloads delivered from the cloud just as its current patches are delivered every second Tuesday of the month. This model would require something like an annual license for the OS rather than a fixed price for the box. If that license were around £25 per year (preferably less), few users could say that use of Windows for just £2 per month is excessive. Let’s now take that to the logical conclusion: Windows and Office both migrate to the cloud and are both upgraded or patched on a continuous basis, as and when required, and paid for on a low-cost rolling license.
So Microsoft’s new strategy could be to own both hardware and software – starting with its own tablet but moving into phones (perhaps by buying Nokia?) and desktops (perhaps by buying Dell or Acer, or even building new from scratch?) – in mimicry of Apple; and then maintaining its software in and distributing from the cloud in mimicry of Google. Such a strategy would combine the best of all possible worlds; and while it is by no means certain that Microsoft could do it, if successful it could reverse the decline of Microsoft.
Back on 29 October, I commented that Apple obeys the letter but not the spirit of the law in fulfilling its court order to say that Samsung had not breached its design patent. I was wrong. In a new ruling announced on Friday, Judges Longmore, Kitchin and Jacob announced a damning verdict on Apple’s behaviour. Samsung had complained to the court that Apple’s compliance with the court order was lacking – and the court agreed. Apple had not even obeyed the letter, never mind the spirit, of the ruling.
Firstly, the court decided that Apple had not complied with the instruction to place adverts in newspapers and magazines (specifically, the “Financial Times, the Daily Mail, The Guardian, Mobile Magazine and T3 Magazine” “within seven days of the date of this Order.”
The new ruling notes that “there was self-evident non-compliance with the newspaper/magazine aspect of the publicity order.”
But the court is more concerned with the page Apple published on its website (now long since altered to fit the original ruling). In his new ruling, Sir Robin Jacob takes the trouble to work through Apple’s ‘apology’ line by line. It’s worth reading the judgement in full, which you can do here. Firstly he objects to Apple adding new material within the statement ordered by the court. “I do not consider it was open to Apple to add matter in the middle of the notice we ordered to be published,” he ruled on Friday. “A notice with such matter is simply not the notice ordered.”
His most damning comments are, however, reserved for the final paragraph added by Apple. “Here what Apple added was false and misleading.” Of the first sentence he rules, “That is false…” Of the second sentence he rules, “That is misleading by omission.” Of the third sentence he concludes, “This is calculated to produce huge confusion.”
The court, to put it mildly is not amused. The announcement of the court ruling had to be just the ruling without embellishment. This Apple has now done: Samsung / Apple UK judgment. But in what can only be viewed as punishment for turning an adverse court ruling into a pro-Apple advert, the court also demanded that a new statement be added to Apple’s home page:
Given our finding that the Contested Notice did not comply with our order and did not achieve what was intended there was no dispute but that we should order it be removed. There was dispute as to what should go up in its place. Apple contended that no more was needed on its home page. We thought otherwise. The Contested Notice had had over a million hits. It was necessary that the fact it was misleading be brought home. Only a notice on Apple’s homepage could be sure to do that. We were of course conscious that a notice on the homepage was highly undesirable from Apple’s point of view, but its own actions had made it necessary. We also thought that a rather longer period was needed than the one month period of the original order. We ordered that the notice and link should stay up until 15th December. The notice on the homepage had to make it clear that the Contested Notice was inaccurate and did not comply with the first order.
Apple has now complied:
Adding salt to the wound, the court also awarded costs (for this particular round of the struggle) to Samsung on an indemnity basis. “Such a basis,” wrote Sir Robin Jacob, “(which is higher than the normal, ‘standard’ basis) can be awarded as a mark of the court’s disapproval of a party’s conduct, particularly in relation to its respect for an order of the court. Apple’s conduct warranted such an order.”
And finally, the last sentence of Sir Robin’s judgement, says, “I hope that the lack of integrity involved in this incident is entirely atypical of Apple.” The damning nature of this judgement suggests that I may have got a second posting wrong: Yes, Microsoft is still more evil than Apple. I may need to revise my opinion now.