Home > Computer Blue > Re-Inventing The Wheel

Re-Inventing The Wheel

Now that we’ve all had the weekend to digest the Apple vs Samsung verdict and it’s become old news, I thought I’d chime in. John Gruber doesn’t see this ruling being harmful to consumers.

But I don’t think there’s anything in this verdict that would prevent Google, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Sony, or RIM from creating a new phone that is way better than the iPhone. Better necessarily implies different. What this verdict should prevent is any of them making phones that are disturbingly similar to Apple’s.

I don’t buy it. The iPhone is not a monolithic thing that a competitor can be judged “better than” or “worse than”. it is a collection of details. Other smart phones, likewise, are the sum of their collections of details, both obvious and subtle.

Matt Yglesias likens today’s smart phone race to the early days of automobiles.

Think about cars and you’ll see that, of course, lots of different companies make cars. But they all have some very similar user interface elements. In particular, there’s a steering wheel that you turn left and right to shift the wheels and there’s a gas pedal and breaks that you hit with your right foot. Imagine if the way the automobile industry worked was that each car maker had to devise a unique user interface. So maybe GM cars would have a steering wheel, but Toyotas would have a joystick, and Honda you would steer with your feel and use your hands to control the gas and breaks.

Cars today don’t operate drastically different from cars created 50 years ago, but it’s hard to argue that technology has stood still. But let’s consider what would have happened if Ford had been granted exclusive rights to the steering wheel some time during the past. Sure, it’s possible that, faced with the prospect of being unable to simply try to iterate, making a steering wheel that turns smoother or is angles more ergonomically, they would go back to the drawing board and invent the next big thing. Instead of cars, we could all be moving around on giant family sized Segways today. but I doubt it.

Invention is great, but day to day progress is made through innovation. Taking an existing idea, tweaking it, then putting it back out in the world. Call me a dirty pinko, but I think technology moves fastest through novel collections of existing tech. This verdict just means we’re going to see companies settling for inferior solutions so as to avoid a lawsuit. Any time a designer spends worrying about the fine line of IP infringement and not about making the best product they can is a huge waste.

Advertisements
Categories: Computer Blue Tags: , , , ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: