Applesauce: All Thing Apple – July 8, 2012
July 8, 2012

Applesauce: All Thing Apple – July 8, 2012

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Take the lime and the coconut and mix it all up. It´s time for your Applesauce, complete with a side of relaxation. Belly on up, partner. I´ve already poured you a bowl.

No More Runnin´

Finally, It´s over. The bloody battle lasted arguably longer than it should have, but now, it´s all over, and it only took Apple forking over $60 million. What can be said of the Apple v Proview copyright infringement case that hasn´t already been ruminated on ad nauseum? This week, a provincial court in China announced Apple would pay out the $60 million just to make the entire thing go away.

“It was done last week, and it was confirmed with a ruling by the higher court,” said Xie Xianghui, a Proview Technology lawyer, according to New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher.

“This means that the dispute between Apple and Shenzhen Proview over the rights to the iPad brand is resolved in a satisfactory manner,” read the official court statement, according to the Associated Press.

As you may recall, Proview is broke. Dead broke. They owe creditors, investors and local banks an awful sum of money. They also haven´t entirely hidden the fact that a win against Apple in this matter could be just the thing they need to cut their losses, pay off their debts, and move on about their lives. And really, the two companies had one another over a barrel. Apple needed to patch this up so they could continue to sell their wares to a very large, very wealthy Chinese population, Proview needed the cash to call off the dogs. The entire ordeal was incredibly unfortunate, really.

So, while $60 million sounds like an incredible amount of money, the Wall Street Journal nicely points out that $60 million for a possible $8 Billion or more in revenue isn´t a bad move. After all, Apple did bring in $8 Billion in the first 3 months of 2012, according to their Q2 results. If a report by Reuters this week is any indication, the Chinese can´t get enough of Apple´s products, and Apple can´t open stores quickly enough. Now, Apple can freely continue to sell their best-selling, market-dominating iPad tablet to the good people of China for years to come.

Proview might also feel shortchanged by the $60 mil payout. They were, after all, looking for as much as $2 billion out of the settlement. Apple´s $60 million only covers a percentage of Proview´s debt, which is now as high as $400 million. "I have to admit the amount Apple paid far from covers all of Proview's debts,” said Xie Xianghui. The Proview attorney also said it´s likely the money will go straight to creditors, denying Proview one last joy in life: Rolling around in piles of cash.

Daily Routine

There´s also been some bad news for Apple on the HTC front in their battle against the unholy Android. Not only did London Judge Christopher Floyd deny Apple´s claim that HTC phones (but really Android) violated their “slide-to-unlock” patents, he also ruled that, of the 4 patents Apple claims were violated, 3 of them weren´t even valid. So there.

Apple is now unable to seek a ban against HTC phones (a certain kind of Android phone) in Britain. It turns out that another smartphone, the Neonode N1 from 2004 (3 years before the iPhone) had a similar unlocking feature. Therefore, Judge Floyd declared Apple did not have a proper claim to this innovation.

Other patents which were denied involved the exciting and awe-inspiring features of international keyboards, the ever-sexy touch-screen precision patent, and that fun little bouncy animation that occurs when you swipe on the last photo in your roll. Serious stuff.

After the decision, an HTC spokeswoman told a Bloomberg reporter, “we remain disappointed that Apple continues to favor competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace.” Apple, on the other hand, crossed their arms, stuck their nose way up in the air and snorted, “Competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

On American soil, the ITC denied Apple another ban of HTC phones on claims that they violate some patents. The ITC will, on the other hand, continue to investigate if these phones do, in fact, violate these patents. The patents in question in this American trial involve being able to detect phone numbers and URLs in emails and texts, something that just seems so very elemental to the way we expect a smartphone to work.

These are the smartphone wars, after all, and no one ever said it would be pretty.

A brief rant, if you´ll allow me. I wouldn´t be accessing the internet via a tether from my iPhone to my MacBook Pro to research an Apple-themed article if I didn´t mean business. Clearly, I´m an Apple fan. My collection of white Apple stickers is a testament to that. I´ve got to wonder, however...How is any of this good for Apple? Slide-to-unlock? Really? How can a company claim to be the sole owner of such a natural technology? And which sane person among us thinks “Oh, that´s an Apple thing!” whenever they keep swiping at the end of their photo roll? I get that the iPhone has what could probably be considered the most accurate touch screen on the market today, but can you really patent this accuracy, refusing excellence to any other company?

Steve Jobs was an insanely brilliant man. Neither you nor I would be in this moment right now if it weren´t for his brilliance, his vision and his extreme tenacity. With that tenacity comes a do I put it gently...attitude. (use your imagination) Steve Jobs felt personally violated when Google started Android. I´m not sure that justifies Apple going after these other companies (HTC isn´t even a major competitor anymore) and trying to ban their products. Now, it´s likely some of these court sessions had been set in place when Jobs was still running things. Their battle against Samsung, for instance, began in 2010. But the current leadership is still seeking injunctions, still taking whatever chance they can get to block phones and tablets all over the world. As a matter of clarification, I do believe they are right to pursue Samsung over design patents. I mean, come on. Samsung is pretty shameless about it at this point, but these other patent suits are just childish. And that´s my rant. Moving right along...

Unsolved Mysteries

You never know when you´re going to learn something new and useful. Even a random, seemingly innocuous article about an impending lawsuit against Apple can contain helpful information. The kind of information that, upon reading it, makes you try to log it away in that “special” part of your brain where you keep all those informative bits and bobs you swear you´ll access next time you´re in the middle of a trivia championship.

Take, for instance, the story this week about the possible 30-day shuttering of every Italian Apple store. Not just the country of origin for every piece of tile in each one of Apple´s retail stores, (that´s a free one) Italy also has a law which requires every electronics company to offer a 2-year warranty and tech support package to every customer, free of charge. Who knew?

Apple, as you know, already offers a one-year warranty with each of their products, then provides the option to purchase an additional 2 years through their AppleCare packages. So, last year, Italy´s competition and marketing authority, the AMCG, fined Apple $1.13 million (or 900,000 euros) for not informing the Italian people of their right to an extra long, free warranty: 400,000 euros for not offering this warranty automatically and 500,000 for having the nerve to continue selling their own AppleCare.

Apple would not stand for such a fine, and appealed it straight away. Their appeal was denied in May, so now it´s time to pay the piper. Apple has a little less than 30 days to pay up (around 26-27 days now, by my count) before Italy sends in the muscle and closes the stores for them. Apple has said they have informed their Italian customers of the free, 2-year warranty, but the AMCG isn´t appeased.

On its website, Apple says: "When you purchase Apple products, European Union consumer law provides statutory warranty rights in addition to the coverage you receive from the Apple One-Year Limited Warranty and the optional AppleCare Protection Plan." I´m not sure if that´s entirely clear, but the kids in Cupertino obviously think it is.

Apple, as you might expect, disagrees with this latest accusation. In a statement, they´ve said, “We´ve appealed the recent decision of the court as it was, in our view, based upon an incorrect interpretation of the law. We´ve introduced a number of measures to address the [Italian authorities´] concerns and we disagree with their latest complaint.”

Adding insult to injury, should Apple fail to pay off the AMCG before the allotted time and should the AMCG close down all Italian Apple stores for 30 days, Apple will have to pay out another 300,000 euros, just for the AMCG´s troubles.

What Would I Want? Sky

Earlier this week, I wrote a long-winded complaint about those pesky iPad Mini rumors. Like cockroaches and Twinkies, these things will still be around even if the apocalypse were to hit between now and the time the thing is actually released, assuming it will be released of course. Since then, I´ve had some time to think about this whole matter and I have to say, I still don´t get it.

Cautious of the danger of repeating myself, I want to make a few more points that I didn´t make a few days ago. The rumors say production for these bad boys will start up in September, prime territory for announcing this year´s holiday best-seller. The way I see it, Apple could announce a brand new, iPad Mini (or iPod XL, I´ll get to it) in September, but when would they ship? A month? 3 weeks? Though I don´t understand the purpose for such a device, I´d be daft to say people wouldn´t eat this thing up, especially if it ships at the rumored $250-$300 price range.

Is there enough time to make enough of these things between announcement and shipment? Traditionally, September has been iPod´s season. That was what had been the best seller for years before the iPhone and later, iPad. Last year, Apple gave the iPod a miss in September and focused instead on an October announcement. Even then, they only announced a white version of the 4th generation iPod Touch, already a year old at the time, in addition to some new clock faces and accessories for the year-old 6th generation iPod nano.

The big star last October was the iPhone 4S. If Apple´s started a new tradition, we´ll see a new iPhone in October. If not October, we know we´ll see one sometime this fall, and a new iPhone, especially one with a fancy new form factor – as this one will likely sport – will get its own event, no doubt.

Would Apple announce BOTH a new iPhone model (complete with 4-inch screen and alleged NFC capabilities) AND a new, smaller iPad Mini Jr thing? They´re free to do what they want, but I don´t see it.

It´s also worth mentioning that, when this supposed 7-inch iPad is announced, we´ll also (probably) have a 4-inch iPhone. Therefore, any user would be able to surf their way to (or their local store) and find  a 3.5-inch iPod Touch, a 4-inch iPhone, a 7-inch iPad Mini Jr and a 9.7-inch iPad. That´s just iOS devices, and it´s a lot of choices for a typically simplistic company to offer their customers.

In all my research, I keep coming across a commonality between the iPad and the iPod. The iPod came into a market full of complicated and ugly devices and changed the game, easily within a span of 3 years. In the same way, the iPad wasn´t the first to market by any means, it´s just the best, hands down. In 3 years time, every tablet maker that isn´t Apple can only hope to compete against one another.

The first iPod was announced in late 2001. At the beginning of 2004, Apple introduced a new size for the iPod, the iPod Mini. It would soon become Apple´s best-selling product. A few months later, they introduced yet another new size in the iPod shuffle. Then, in the fall of 2005, they killed their best-selling iPod Mini and replaced it with the iPod Nano. Since then, the Nano has been through 6 different design styles to varying degrees of intensity.

If we think of the iPad like the iPod, then this entire nonsense about a smaller screen makes a little more sense. Not much more, but a little. In fact, I wouldn´t be surprised if Apple gave it an iPod name, if not replacing the iPod Touch entirely.

Something else to think about: If Apple releases this thing, it´s likely going to kill any other 7-inch tablet, be it the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire (first or second generation.) This is doubly so if Apple meets the rumored price point of $250-$300. Currently, an 8 GB iPod Touch starts at $199. A 7-inch tablet at $250 – even an 8 GB option – would completely kill the iPod Touch. Even if the rumored Apple Mini Jr tablet didn´t ship with a Retina display, (an obvious step backward from everything else Apple is doing) the iPod Touch with Retina display would suffer, now only an option for the athletic set who won´t want to strap a 7-inch piece of aluminum to their bodies as they run.

These iPad Mini Jr rumors come from some pretty credible sources. If they´re wrong, these publications could incur a pretty nice shiner on their reputations. However, the way I see it, the only way this thing ever makes it to market is if Apple kills the iPod Touch, introduces it as the iPod XL, or drops the price of the iPod Touch to a very-low $99. Is Apple willing to discontinue the iPod Touch? Possibly. It´d be a bold move, but Apple´s certainly no stranger to bold moves. After all, they killed the iPod Mini only a year and a half after its introduction. They pulled floppy drives from the iMac. They removed a spinning hard drive from the MacBook.

Apple isn´t scared to make a bold statement. Killing any member of the iPod family, however, would be like...well, killing off a member of your family: An elderly, matriarchal member of your family, without whom none in your family would be alive. Sure, it could be done, but the insinuations would be deafening.