Tablets In Court – Continued

As for your “Apple is killing the [tablet] marketplace”, as companies like Palm/HP and RIM are showing: there’s plenty of competition that’s doing fine without toe-ing the copying line.

~ Comment by reader Azijn

Not so much, it seems.

HP have thrown in the towel, after their tablet being on the market for an astonishingly brief three weeks. The world’s largest computer manufacturer doesn’t think it can make its money back on tablets. What chance does a relative minnow like RIM have?

Both HP’s WebOS and RIM’s QNX are – or were – really interesting and attractive operating systems, and it’s true that they’re arguably a lot less similar to Apple’s iOS than Android is. (Though it has been argued by some that they’re a little bit too similar to each other.) But it’s immaterial; only Android has the ecosystem of apps to compete with iOS. For the foreseeable future, there is no other realistic alternative to the iPad.

Samsung have clearly being sailing close to the legal wind – in part perhaps to establish just what can and can’t be copyrighted. It’s interesting legally because many of the laws being invoked by Apple were designed to prevent counterfeiting or passing-off of fake goods. Now clearly Samsung are not passing-off. Their products say ‘Samsung’ on the front in large letters. But they know that Apple have managed to create an aura of sexiness around their products. Is the iPhone the ideal size and shape? Is it the most beautiful design possible? It doesn’t matter; people now want something that looks like that. So to compete, it may be necessary to look as similar as you legally can. Perhaps Samsung will argue in court that consumer electronics is more like the fashion industry now.

But I would be happier to see companies attempting to innovate with Android instead. HTC have tried of course, but for sheer inventive madness I think you have to hand it to their neighbours Asus.

Apple Versus Samsung Galaxy Tab – Update

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 Review
OK, here

A quick update to the story about Apple blocking sales of the rival Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 throughout the EU. In good news for people who want to get their hands on this device, the ruling by the German court has been clarified. Confusion arose because Samsung has a German subsidiary, and the court had the jurisdiction to prevent this company selling the Tab 10.1 throughout the EU. However the court is not competent to ban the South Korean parent company from selling it in any other European country.

Glad to sort that one out.

I still prefer the iPad 2 as a device, but this probably is the best direct rival it’s seen so far and I hope the courts eventually do decide that it’s fair competition. Though I suppose it goes without saying that my favourite of all the available tablet devices is something else again. And no, not the one you’re probably thinking. More on this soon!

Thou Shalt Have No Other Tablets Before Me

Steve Jobs while introducing the iPad in San F...
Steve "Moses" Jobs

Update: The legal situation has been clarifiied, though it doesn’t affect most of the points at issue here.

This is what Apple effectively said to all of Europe this week, raising fears the the world’s biggest technology company has totally lost it.

Apple claims that a rival product, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, infringes its “design rights”, and that therefore we shouldn’t even have the choice of buying one. A German judge has agreed that there is a case to be made. Apple sought the injunction in Germany, analysts suggest, because that country has a lot of its own design-based industries so the courts are more likely to sympathise with the plaintiff, and trade rules are such that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 cannot now be sold anywhere in the EU until the issue is resolved – with the exception of the Netherlands, where such a case is already under way.

So does Apple have a case? Well the Galaxy Tab is superficially similar to the iPad. But that’s because they are both tablet computers with touch interfaces. The iPad is certainly a great example of such a device, but Apple didn’t invent it. They are both devices that run operating systems originally designed for phones, but “make a phone bigger and take out the phonecall part” is hardly patentable design. There is nothing illegal about trying to compete. In fact our entire economic and social model depends on the idea.

And under the skin of course they are fundamentally different beasts. There are some components that are absolutely identical, yes – but often because those components were designed by Samsung. They cannot run the same software, so the Galaxy Tab is in no way passing itself off as an iPad. Yet Apple’s case seems to be based mostly on the fact that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 looks a good bit like the iPad 2. It doesn’t even apply to the original 7″ Galaxy Tab.

The real reason why the are out to stop you getting your hands on a Galaxy Tab 10.1? Because it’s too good. Because by a lot of measures, it’s a better product than the iPad 2. it’s significantly lighter for one, which makes a huge difference in a tablet device, plus it has a larger yet sharper screen. What make this abundantly clear is that Apple are trying to do the same to Motorola‘s Xoom, also tipped as a serious rival.

Though these are good products, I still prefer the iPad as an experience. Apple’s total control over hardware and software does lead to a refinement that Android devices never will quite attain. The main reason I would still choose to buy an Android tablet is Apple’s restrictive practices. Now it seems, Apple are restricting the market so that I have no choice but to accept their restricted products. If they ruled the world, the person who built a better mousetrap would find no one beating a path to their door except the police.

What Phone Is Right For You? 7 – I, Android

Android robot logo.
Do people who spent a lot on iPhones get 'Droid rage?

The war may be over already. By the time you read this, Google’s Android could have surpassed all other phone operating systems by the one significant metric remaining: Number of apps available. It is expected to overtake Apple’s App Store sometime during July, at around the 425,000 mark.

That was the final battle. It passed out Symbian as the most common OS on new phones late last year. At an estimated 57% of the titles in the store, it already has more than twice as many free apps to download as any other system. It is available on phones at a wide range of prices – pretty much all of them less than the iPhone. And at the top end of the scale, Samsung‘s Galaxy S II has received overwhelming critical acclaim, dethroning the iPhone 4 in such league tables as the respected PC Pro A-List. So you could say everything from the best to the cheapest smartphone runs Android. Can there be any reason not to go for it?

A few. Though there are already more free apps available for Android, iPhone is still way ahead with paid-for ones, which are (probably) going to be of higher quality. Moreover, all current Apple apps are going to work pretty well on any iPhone since the 3GS. With the wide variety of hardware running Android, you really have no idea what percentage of the available apps is going to work well for you.

And this gets to the nub of the difference between the iPhone and Android experience. IPhone is simpler, more controlled and managed. Android is more open, more free, more varied. And this will allow it to produce the best phone on the market, time and time again.

But some of the worst smartphones available are going to be running Android too.

If you buy a new iPhone you know it’s going to be one of the best phones available right now. If you opt for Android, you still have a lot of choosing left to do. Right now Samsungs are hot and Sony Ericssons are getting interesting, but it’s only a few months since HTC unquestionably made the best Android phones. It’s a whole market in itself, and a busy one. But if you want the widest choice of handset in a smartphone, then Android it has to be.