While the possibility that Android, a beloved smartphone institution, could be sued out of existence by Apple, Microsoft, it is alarming to many, this incident in many ways serves most of all to illustrate much broader problems with the U.S. intellectual property system.
Companies in the U.S. are laying claim to increasingly generic intellectual property and using that IP as instrument not to innovate, but to litigate. The street runs two ways in most cases — often times IP lawsuits are followed by IP counter suits. But often one player in the market is using IP as the general bully, while the other is trying to defend itself.
Many argue the U.S. desperately needs intellectual property reform. But the federal government under both former President George W. Bush (R) and under President Barack Obama (D) has been slow to act.
The Nortel sale should offer a key signal to the market. If the federal government blocks it, it may be a sign that the era of using IP as an offensive weapon is coming to an end. On the other hand, if it’s approved without restriction, it will offer a virtual blueprint of how to defeat your competitor. If the latter scenario plays out consumers may find themselves in an odd market where it’s not the competitor with the best products that wins, but the company with the best lawyers and patent portfolio.
Personally, knowing Google as I do, I think they may well have something up their cuff, watch the space.
So in a bit of a twist of the online nature, it’s a decidedly different change in the race to the cloud so to speak. It wasn’t Google to do it, it wasn’t Microsoft, it looks like the crown for first will be going to Amazon.
Last week the online mega-sales site launched it’s Android app store, and just yesterday made an unexpected offering, Amazong Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. Interesting note, it is not iFriendly. Now it’s not the full service cloud solution that some people may be looking at exploring, but if the player and storage are stable under heavy load, it speaks well for Amazons future forays into the cloud. It starts off fairly basic, with 5GB of storage for your music enjoyment, but you’re upgraded to 20 GB of storage for the purchase of one MP3 album. Now just because it’s a cloud based music player, doesn’t mean it’s restricted, your storage space can be used for essentially anything, music, documents, photos etc.
This comes on the heels of a report that last week Google (whom many though to be the cloud leader) began testing it’s own online music services. The introduction of the Amazon player however isn’t so much a thorn in Googles side, as it is a boon to it’s Android software. Music has been an issue for the devices, and now with Amazon offering their own storage and player, and a strong relationship with Android app marketplace already, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find Google and Amazon shaking hands to make some ends meet.
In what could shape up to be a somewhat expensive fight for both parties, Microsoft filed a motion against Apple, blocking the company from trademarking the term “App Store”.
The brief outlines basically that the terms app and store both have generic definitions in society, and the combined app store also has meaning to the masses. Because of the widespread use of the term in the mobile industry, Microsoft also demonstrated that even Steve Jobs has used the phrase as a definition of services offered by it’s competitors in the same space. And indeed if you search on Google for app store, you’ll receive a results page with some 110 million results, with related search terms comprising of android app store, blackberry app store and nokia app store just to name a couple.
There is no doubt that Apple paired the terms and began using the phrase app store in conjuction with it’s offerings for it’s iPhone and other hardware, but it hardly warrants exclusive trademark rights. If Apple were granted the trademark rights to the term, no doubt we’d start to see many other applications submitted for other generic pairings. Microsoft in their motion listed quite a few examples of similar circumstances where trademark applications were denied as the terms applied for were too generic. The ball is in Apple’s court now and how will they reply? Only time will tell.
Is Apple the next in line for ‘Anonymous’, the Wikileaks honorary guard? Companies who’ve removed the ability for money to be sent to the organization, have all in turn been attacked with direct denial of service attacks (DDOS) basically flooding the target with website requests which bring the site to a stand still.
And most recently, Apple has dropped the Wikileaks app from the App Store. “Is it likely that Apple could become a target? Of course, anyone that distances themselves from WikiLeaks could potentially become a cyber target.” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit. In all of the interviews and known information about the DDOS crusaders, the basic idea is there is no true leadership. It’s more of a group concensus about which target is going to be flooded, and the attacks are coordinated from there. Perhaps Jobs is betting that the ‘Anonymous’ group are Apple fan boys at heart. With a demographic of no fixed size or income, it’s a stretch to make believe that’s true.
And an additional take of the darker side of search, an interesting article which was rife with blackhat truths. the column had a number of colorful quips like: “The black hat SEO is the king of offshoring. Whether it’s programmers from Russia, Latvia, the Ukraine, or content creators from the Philippines, he knows how to create leverage and do it on the cheap.” And probably my personal favorite: “What are the tactics of the black hatter? Well, if I told you I’d have to kill you. Seriously though, do you think a black hatter would actually list them all out for me to publish in an article that Googlers are going to read?”
It’s an amusing read, and offers a couple of insights into the probable targets of black hat SEO techniques. Take a look through the short list provided and take it with a grain of salt, the average time a blackhat site stays live isn’t very long, a few weeks on average, but being able to rank above them irregardless of all the tricks takes the skills and qualities of SEO experts.
Apple announced really impressive earnings over the last while, a billion here, a few million there. And Jobs had a short monologue prepared to address some of the players in the industry; and focused most of his time on the Google problem.
Apple has a history of “not playing well with others”, but Jobs even went so far as to justify dismissingly (to himself really) RIM/Blackbery, and Android. He spent only a few lines on RIM, he feels that they’re not a contender in their arena of handheld media. He did however, focus a good 5+ minutes on Google and their open software platform, Android. Citing that because of there being so many versions of Android out in the wild, that it makes it troublesome to develop reliable apps across all of the versions. The creator of Android itself, Andy Rubin, defended the platform via Twitter with a single line of code; illustrating what open software allows. And in almost storybook form, the creators of Tweetdeck, a third party program used to access Twitter, also came to the rescue of Android. Jobs’ argument was there are so many versions available it makes it difficult to develop apps, and the Tweetdeck creators fired back.
Iain Dodsworth, CEO of TweetDeck “Did we at any point say it was a nightmare developing on Android? Errr nope, no we didn’t. It wasn’t. We only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is.”
It’s not an uncommon sight to see fear take hold when someone is beginning to encroach on territory. But Jobs using an impressive earnings release to try and undermine some of the strong following that Android has garnered can only leave you to wonder if it’s his confidence talking, or if he’s scrambling in the midst of a threat he never expected.
With their sink or swim approach to business, Google Wave has crashed. At the end of the year, Wave will be dismantled, some portions being retained and used in current and future apps. Wave was an innovation in collaberation, which was great once you got the hang of it. Intuitive however, it was not. To work with, and discover Wave’s nuances you had to keep at it, and learn as you work with your friends and colleagues.
Meanwhile, on the hands free end of the news, smartphones running the Android platform has reached the point of 200,000 activations per day. The conservative estimate is that as we approach the end of the year, it’ll be nearing the 30 million Androids in the public.
In a Nielson poll, Android based phones outsold the iPhone so far in 2010 (July outstanding), 27% for the Android versus 23% for the Apple iPhone. Loyalty may become a problem however, as iPhone users are happiest with their handsets (despite the antenna woes), with only 71% of Android owners and users being content enough to continue to use and upgrade their handset.
The ball may remain in Android’s court however, as with the platform being open source, any smartphone manufacturer can build and provide a phone that uses the software.
In the news to come column, Google has inked a deal to purchase Slide, a social app developer. Expected to be announced on Friday, this would mark a second large step in the social avenue of the web, along with Googles previous investment of more than $100 million into social gaming company Zynga.
Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said that social networking was important to Google:
“Search is going to get better with more social information.”
“We have understood for a long time that social stuff is very important. The question that’s in everyone’s minds is why are we trying to create a competitor to Facebook, and the answer is we’re not going to create a competitor to Facebook. It’s something different.”
“It’s hard to see how we could end up as becoming a significant gaming or entertainment source,” he said. “It’s much more likely that we would become an infrastructure for those sorts of things.”
Google’s recently accounced it’s “build your own app” program for the everyday person who’d like customize their Android powered phone. For free. Apps that are developed with the platform can be listed in the android store with a nominal registration fee. Some have said this will lead to an influx of poorly designed apps, and others have used the argument that this opens up people to a new realm of spam.
Just to add to the mix, Windows has decided to toss their hat into the ring as well. On the expected arrival of the Windows Phone 7 platform, Microsoft has launched their own suite of developer tools.
A brief timeline from the Windows Phone Developer Blog:
Feb 2010 – Windows Phone 7 was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
Mar 2010 – The application platform was unveiled at MIX 10 in Las Vegas. With that, we had the first CTP of the Windows Phone Developer Tools.
Apr 2010 – The tools received an updated, and the CTP Refresh shipped.
Jun 2010 – Windows Phone Marketplace details unveiled at TechEd 2010.
July 2010 – Beta release of Windows Phone Developer Tools, and the preview developer phones start shipping to ISVs
The iPhone has their apps, with quality guidelines and store and what not. With an SDK which isn’t terribly difficult to learn, but made for the technically inclined. Versus, the newest Android developer software, which allows virtually anyone the ability to create their own custom apps for their Android powered phone. And now the Microsoft version, allowing further customization of the Windows Phone 7 powered handsets. To add a little cream to their offering, free classes on how to fully utilize the Microsoft software are available. The premise:
It will provide developers a jump start for developing Windows Phone 7 applications.
The dates for these course sessions are:
July 20 – 8am: Session One: Getting Started with Microsoft Windows Phone and Silverlight
July 20 – 1pm: Session Two: Programming Game Applications with XNA
July 22 – 8am: Session Three: Programming Applications with Silverlight
July 22 – 1pm: Session Four: Review and Wrap Up
This is a big milestone for everyone involved in Windows Phone 7 – inside and outside of Microsoft – and we hope you share in our excitement. With the Beta release of the tools, developers can build apps with a “ship it” mentality.
So now it’s turned into much more than just a handset battle, the software and apps powered by that software have entered the fray. With the power to be able to completely customize your cell phones functions and uses, to cater to your needs, the way of the paid app development may be on it’s way to the horizon. As an additional bonus, the marketing potential for a creative, lucrative small business owner is tremendous.
It’s been nearly nine months since Google-based phones came to Canada, but the Web giant continues to deny residents of this country access to thousands of phone applications