Your iPhone, the User Experience, and Patent Infringement
Apple recently won a patent infringement lawsuit against HTC, winning a ban on importing undisclosed models of HTC phones beginning in November. The move will likely be a footnote in the industry, and it is unlikely that HTC’s business will miss a beat with the fairly generous decision from the courts. The patent had to do with how the phone collects data from the user.
The iPhone manufacturer is justifiably frustrated: once again, after practically reinventing the wheel and cornering the smart phone market for years, there’s competition in the mix. What is frustrating is that the competition just wants to be like Apple. In Europe, the Samsung Galaxy Tab was almost never released, as Apple sued to block release of the tablet.
Steve Jobs is revered today for bringing the iPod, iPhone, and iPad to the people. His final years at Apple truly revolutionized consumer-level technology; the rest of the tech sector simply plays catch up. However, this is far from the first time that Apple has been a trendsetter.
In 1984, Apple released the original Macintosh, a fundamental rethinking of how humans and computers interact. IBM had already released the personal computer, creating a consumer revolution—but one thing IBM had overlooked was the user experience. The original PC was designed by computer science geeks, for computer science geeks. A lot of work had to be done to train people how to use the thing. Jobs made a commitment to build a computer that anyone could use. As a result, the original Macintosh had a graphical interface that you could navigate with a mouse.
Once the Macintosh dropped, PC designers started playing catch-up. Eventually, Microsoft Windows was released. The operating system was a clear attempt at giving PC users a Macintosh-like user experience. Apple sued—and lost.
While the original mouse and graphical interface idea originated at Xerox (Xerox sued Apple and lost, by the way), Jobs brought that technology right to the user. A sort of Michael Jackson of technology, Jobs and Apple found success in the end by re-contextualizing cutting edge computer science and making it usable by the average person.
Your iPhone is a brilliant amalgamation of technologies that had already been in existence for twenty years. As Android and Blackberry phones rush to copy—hopefully legally this time—Apple’s successful designs, know that the iPhone you hold in your hand is, for what it’s worth, a relatively true original.
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