Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 12th Aug 2012 21:15 UTC, submitted by Torbjorn Vik Lunde
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless One of the major patents being discussed in the Apple vs. Samsung cases all around the world is inertia scrolling. Apple claims to have invented it, but in fact, Sun was working on a PDA in the early '90s called the Star7, which had inertia scrolling. In a demonstration posted to YouTube, you can see this device in action, including the touch screen inertial scrolling. James Gosling (yup, that one), the narrator of the video, even mentions it specifically. This looks like a case of prior art for this patent, and serves to demonstrate that, no, despite all these grandiose claims, Apple did not invent this at all, which further illustrates the complete and utter lunacy of the patent system in the software world. The Star7's interface is reminiscent of Microsoft Bob, and makes me want to forcefully introduce my head to my recently-painted walls. Still, it's an interesting device; 1992 is when the first fully touchscreen PDA was released (the Tandy Zoomer, by what would eventually become Palm), and a year before the Newton arrived on the scene. Luckily for us, the Star7 never made it to market. That interface gives me nightmares...
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RE[2]: Very interesting
by tanzam75 on Mon 13th Aug 2012 15:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Very interesting"
Member since:

Independent of the Apple vs. Samsung case, it seems a bit curious to suggest Samsung haven't invented anything. After all, they apparently spent over $9 billion on R&D last year. I'm not claiming this matches Apple's R&D budget, but it would be a bit surprising if this hadn't generated any new inventions.

Actually, Samsung's R&D budget of $9 billion is much larger than Apple's R&D budget of $3 billion.

Apple is well-known for spending very little on R&D, compared to all of its major competitors. First, they do very little "R" -- it's almost all "D." And even for "D," they've taken large parts of their operating system from the open source community. This gives them what Wall Street refers to as leverage. They can pay for one engineer, and get the work of ten others for free.

In other words, Apple has relentlessly focused on where the money is in the value chain -- and offloaded all the other costs onto others. This is similar to how Apple has browbeat the carriers into paying it a larger subsidy than everyone else. Apple is close to the economist's ideal of the perfect value-maximizing company.

The open question is whether this is sustainable in the long-run. If the carriers all hate you but grudgingly continue to pay the Apple tax, then what happens if one day they desert you? If you rely on the leveraging effect of open-source, then what will happen in this new world of patents-as-warfare?

Make no mistake -- other companies are watching how this shakes out. Business "leaders" like to follow trends, and Apple's success at turning low levels of R&D spending into extreme profits will become a model for the industry to follow. That would be unfortunate, because "wasted" R&D usually is anything but -- it may be wasted for the company that paid for it, but it's good for society in the long-run.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[3]: Very interesting
by flypig on Mon 13th Aug 2012 16:08 in reply to "RE[2]: Very interesting"
flypig Member since:

Thanks for clarifying, and also for the detailed explanation about Apple's operating model, which is fascinating.

At the moment it's surprising that this doesn't appear to be harming Apple at all, (and there's nothing wrong with using open source, of course!). It probably helps that Apple - presumably - has a lot of very smart and loyal developers working for them.

However, I totally agree with your conclusion. R&D has much wider benefits than just for the company that makes the investment, and it would be a serious mistake to think there can be any long term benefit to cutting back on research.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Very interesting
by KLU9 on Tue 14th Aug 2012 23:10 in reply to "RE[2]: Very interesting"
KLU9 Member since:

[If the carriers all hate you but grudgingly continue to pay the Apple tax, then what happens if one day they desert you?

Then say hello to Apple Mobile, your new friendly cellular service company!
(Disclosure: By opening the packaging of your Apple iPhone, you agree to the Apple Mobile terms of service and automatically subscribe to the Apple Mobile Premium service package, charged by direct debit from your bank account. Your subscription does not constitute a purchase of service; Apple Mobile merely licenses you permission to use the Apple Mobile cellular service, when such service is available. Apple Mobile is not liable for calls dropped while holding the phone in the left hand. All calls made from an Apple Mobile caller to a subscriber of a competing cellular carrier, and vice versa, will be routed through Cupertino, CA and be subject to the relevant roaming charges. All income made by Apple Mobile will be routed through Dutch and Irish shell companies, and be subject to the relevant tax shelters & deductions.)

Reply Parent Score: 3