Under normal circumstances, the proceedings of a patent trial would be about as exciting as watching grass grow on TV, picture-in-picture, while paint dries on the main channel. However, Apple versus Samsung has been surprisingly fascinating so far, but less so for the legal wranglings than for the information surfacing during the trial. Evidence and testimony presented during the trial is giving us unexpected insights into Apple’s inner workings.
By now you’ve probably already seen the very early iPad and iPhone prototypes that were published last week and the giant iPad prototype from a week earlier yet. If not for the current patent trial between Apple and Samsung, it’s unlikely these prototypes would have seen the light of day until many years from now, if ever. Yet we’ve learned that Apple was designing prototypes for the iPad as long as ten years ago.
More bits of info have come to light in the past few days:
The Verge has galleries of prototypes for both the iPhone and iPad. Many of these images are of prototypes we already saw last week, but several new ones have surfaced showing yet more designs that Apple considered and ultimately rejected. Feast your eyes on the iPhones and iPads that might have been, but that’s the best you’ll be able to do for now; it’ll be a long time before any of these walk out of Apple’s labs and show up on eBay.
Reuters describes testimony from Christopher Stringer, a veteran member of Apple’s design team. Describing that team, Stringer says they are “a pretty maniacal group of people. We obsess over details.” The team often discusses those ideas around a kitchen table, brainstorming design concepts before heading off to do some CAD mockups. According to Stringer, Apple’s design process doesn’t follow a linear idea-sketch-model-prototype path and, as the huge swath of prototypes proves, Apple isn’t afraid to abandon a concept altogether if a better one comes along.
AllThingsD shows three photos Apple has entered into evidence to support its claim that Samsung has slavishly copied the iPhone’s design. If you’ve seen any of those “Before the iPhone –> iPhone –> After the iPhone” images before, you’ll find Apple’s evidence very familiarly laid out. Apple’s timeline shows that Samsung was in the Palm/Blackberry lookalike business during the early 2000s. The first few years after the iPhone was a time of transition for Samsung’s designs, with several different form factors in play. In 2010, going by Apple’s chart Samsung eventually said the heck with it and settled on a design stunningly similar to the iPhone — designs that persist to the present day.
The Verge liveblogged Phil Schiller’s testimony, and some of his remarks were revelatory. Schiller testified that each new model of iPhone has sold as many units as all the iPhones before it. That obviously includes the current iPhone 4S, the “disappointing” iPhone that multiple pundits insisted would be Apple’s downfall last year.
Fact-checking Schiller’s statement proves he’s right; the iPhone’s growth has indeed been exponential so far. It may even be possible for the next iPhone to sell over 200 million units — though don’t count on it. If you do the math, you’ll find that sort of growth isn’t sustainable.
Schiller called the iPad “a risk to our image” because the tablet category was essentially dead when the iPad was first introduced. Indeed, many people dismissed the iPad as frivolous and doomed to fail at its unveiling less than three years ago.
Schiller also revealed that, contrary to previous statements, Apple does indeed engage in market research for its products via surveys and other methods. 85 percent of customers who purchased the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 said the device’s appearance was either important or very important to their decision to purchase it — a key metric when attempting to prove that Samsung’s similarly designed devices conceivably caused financial damages to Apple.
“I was pretty shocked at the appearance of the Galaxy S phone and the extent to which it appeared to copy Apple’s products,” Schiller said. When he saw the Galaxy Tab and how similar it was to the iPad, he suddenly felt that Samsung intended to copy Apple’s entire product line.
Samsung’s lawyer asked Schiller if Apple expected to change its design for the forthcoming “iPhone 5.” To absolutely no one’s surprise, Schiller declined to comment.
Senior VP of iOS software Scott Forstall took the stand after Schiller. He first described Apple’s intentions for OS X, calling it “an operating system that could last for another 20 years.” Looks like we can look forward to OS X Ocelot after all.
The decision to develop the iPhone had a simple motivation: Apple’s staff hated their cellphones. They’d already been working on the iPad project, so the team adapted the work it had done so far to a smaller product, which eventually became the iPhone. This team was segregated from the rest of Apple for years, and secrecy was paramount even by Apple’s legendarily locked-down standards.
CNET shows off an email from Eddy Cue, described during Scott Forstall’s court testimony, which shows Apple has indeed shown interest in developing a smaller version of the iPad. “I believe there will be a 7″ market and we should do one,” Cue said in a January 2011 email to Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and Scott Forstall after using a Samsung Galaxy.
“I expressed this to Steve several times since Thanksgiving and he seemed very receptive the last time,” Cue said in the email, which contradicts claims Jobs made during an October 2010 financial call where he dissed the usability of smaller tablets. Cue found few usability problems: “I found email, books, facebook and video very compelling on a 7″. Web browsing is definitely the weakest point, but still usable.”
Samsung presented this as evidence that Apple draws just as much “inspiration” from its competitors as Samsung has. Time will tell if Apple releases a smaller iPad that looks almost identical to the Galaxy Tab.