Friday, March 5

More on Apple, HTC, and competition

The more I have thought about this issue, the more it stinks.

Patents were invented to prevent competitors from stealing invention from the original inventors for a reasonable period of time so the original inventor could recover the cost of R&D.

The truth is, Nexus One and iPhone are not competitors.  Why would I make such an obviously insane statement like that?  I mean, look at them, there are literally hundreds of blog articles and professional reviews comparing the two and there are more similarities than differences.  Still, as with many such things, the small differences make all the difference.

One difference is domain.  There are countries where US Patent and copyright laws have no jurisdiction because there is no treaty to enforce it.  With wireless, the network is the domain. Nexus 1 is not a serious competitor on AT&T because it can't use full 3G... it is limited to the slower EDGE network.  The iPhone doesn't work with any of the carriers who offer the HTC phones in question.  So, there is a significant deterrent already in place to switching networks(early cancellation fees).  In that case, it is the features of the network, not the phone itself, that is creating demand.  I wouldn't switch to AT&T to get an iPhone not because I think iPhones suck, but because I don't want AT&T.  In truth, anyone with a data plan would have been insane to keep their Blackberry over the last few years instead of getting an iPhone.  The barrier was network then and it will continue to be network now.

The other difference is community.  Apple has a community all their own and the Apple loyalists are the ones who are out there buying up every new Apple gadget the minute it comes out.  They are also the ones posting all over the internet about how much the Nexus One "sux" in comparison to the iPhone.  These people are not going to switch networks to buy something that is "just like" their iPhone.

On the other hand, people who are interested in Nexus One and other Android phones are interested in getting a lot of the same functionality of the iPhone on their current network.  Also, many of them are going to be developers who are interested in an open platform.

In addition, if the products are truly as similar as Jobs wants you to think they are, why would people switch from what they have, pay the cancellation fee, and pay the high price of a new phone just to get something they already have?  And as far as new customers go, AT&T is the breaking point there.  Signal is king, if I would have accepted bad signal for the phone I wanted, I would have switched to T-Mobile when the N1 was first launched.

Bottom line, different networks, different target consumers... too different for this to really matter to Apple and too different for there to be a claim of serious competition.  What it does is call into question(again for the thousandth time) is the validity of patents on software.  I am all for protecting the rights of businessmen and inventors... what I am not in favor of is fooling the patent office into issuing a patent for something like "gestures over an icon for unlocking a device" because they obviously don't understand the technology.

Like I said, the more you think about it, the more it stinks.

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