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5by5 | The Critical Path #11: The Thermonuclear Option

Episode #11 • October 26, 2011 at 12:00pm

Dan and Horace talk about patents and litigation as a means of defending innovation. We go way back to the beginning of the last century and talk how patent wars have played out in the past and how they affected the fortunes and fates of innovators.

This episode is sponsored by Squarespace and TinyLetter.

 

IMPORTANT: I made an error in claiming that Mauser litigated for royalties during WWI. The litigation with Mauser preceded the war, but the bullet design used in the rifle was the subject of litigation before, during and after the war. The story of that patent fight is described here: The Tale of the Spitzer Bullet Patent Lawsuit | asymco

To read more about the Wright Brothers patent war see: The Wright brothers patent war – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Anonymous

    I disagree with the idea that Apple should focus significantly less on litigation than innovation.
    A few reasons come to mind.

    Firstly, like you have masterfully documented in previous posts, although Apple is investing tremendously in ramping up production, they are still far behind the sheer number of devices the Android army of copycats is able to muster.
    The reason seems obvious to me: Apple is the new entrant in the phone business and is being ripped off by the incumbents. This is the exact scenario patents were designed to prevent.
    Apple may have the highest market cap in the world, but in they are still new in the phone business.

    And then there is the history. The Mac was copied by Windows and then killed with scale and diversity. Google is attempting the same thing with Android.
    I think it is crucial for Apple to show that it has the strength and determination to break this pattern.
    I’m not sure they can afford to spend years innovating only to be copied soon after.
    An injunction based on iPhone patents would have a chilling effects not only on copycats in the phone business, but also in the future businesses Apple wants to get into.

    It appears that Apple has licensed some of their multitouch related patents to Microsoft and Nokia.
    The details of their settlement with Nokia are not public, but we do know that Apple is paying Nokia patent license fees. We also know that Nokia wasn’t as much interested in Apple’s money, but wanted a cross-licensing agreement including patents Apple did not want to license.
    All of the above, coupled with the strikingly different design of Windows Phone suggests that Apple got what they wanted: cross-licensing the basic patents while strongly refusing to license any of their design patents.
    In the same spirit, they are now pursuing Android, as they should.

    If Windows Phone can compete without infringing, surely Google can afford to hire some designers.

    • Anonymous

      When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone he made a special point of saying “and we’ve patented the hell out of it” which was his vow to never repeat the experience he had trying to sue Microsoft over “look and feel” of Windows rather than to litigate with solid patents. The look-and-feel litigation went on for 10 years and was bruising for both sides. Part of the package deal negotiated along with MSFT’s $200 million investment in Apple in 1999 was that neither would ever sue each other over user interface issues again.

      10 years later, Google and Samsung have been stupid and cowardly and shamelessly cloned iOS and the hardware devices. If they would grow some cajones and do something innovative (and risky) then they would get some respect and avoid these lawsuits. Google has also managed to create an extremely unhealthy ecosystem, poisoned to its core by the utterly inexplicable Moto acquisition. At least Windows Phone takes the multitouch UI in a new direction (but steals some gestures from iOS nonetheless.)

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        Actually . . . Apple totally lost the look-and-feel case. The settlement (I thought it was $150 million) was over IP in the quicktime architecture and Apple’s patents covering that technology.

        Also, if MS is using patented gestures and is paying a royalty or worked out some other deal with Apple, it’s not stealing. If it was, I think we’d have heard something about it by now.* I have new found respect for MS because of the work they’ve done with WP7.x

        *I’ve also noticed that Balmer has not made any derisive comments about the iPhone of late. Indeed, a recent comment of his suggested that Apple and WP were in the same league, while Android was inferior. Could it be that MS and Apple are cross licensing or even .. . . [shudder] . . . allying?

      • Anonymous

        Lets not forget WHY apple lost the case. Not because they had a case, but because the judge ruled that Apple had granted MS the rights to use their look and feel in an earlier agreement (related to Excel, I believe).

    • Hossein

      From what Apple has been doing, it seems they think in exact same terms as you have listed here. And they are suing Android OEMs (as much as they can), as they did sue Microsoft for the Mac user interface back in the days.

      But what Horace correctly pointed out here was that, it does not matter. The process takes so long that in such a rapidly changing industry, it means nothing. Which one is wiser for Apple to do? Spend millions of dollars paying lawyers for litigation or use that money to hire smart people to come up with next “big things?”

      • Anonymous

        I’m suggesting they should do both and have explained why I think both are important.

        They can afford it, so why not do it?

        The engineers and designers working on the next big thing will not be in any way inconvenienced by the lawyers.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        “The Wheels of Justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.” ~ various attributions

        Meanwhile, there’s INJUNCTIONS. These seem to be having an effect, e.g., Samsung saying it would in the future create phones that sidestepped IP issues (at their last product announcement, the big shindig with Google and ICS).

        “Spend millions of dollars paying lawyers for litigation or use that money to hire smart people to come up with next ‘big things?'” ~ you

        Why can’t they do both? Besides, the costs of litigation for Apple, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc., are nothing. Chicken feed. It’s just a small part of the cost of doing business.

        Now, the cost of buying patent portfolios . . . slightly different matter.

      • Anonymous

        Its not an either/or.

        The people doing the litigating, and the people doing the development are completely independent. The money going into litigation (at least in Apple’s case) would not be otherwise spent on development, that I am sure of. The constraining factors in development are far more likely to be manufacturing issues, inability to hire good people fast enough, and rising complexity of their hardware and software systems, and not a lack of money.

    • Anonymous

      I thought all this was about was Eric Schmidt developing a competitor to the iPhone for several months while remaining on Apple’s board, right up “until I couldn’t stay on the board anymore,” to put it in his own words.

      Which led to Jobs statement: “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion n the bank, to right this wrong.” And he’s had a personal vendetta ever since.

      Actually I don’t think that. I know it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15400984

  • http://enkerli.wordpress.com Enkerli

    Useful episode. “Going out of your depth” may be an efficient way for you to generate broader insight.
    This time, it almost sounded as an argument in favour of the commons. Working with Communautique (a local community organisation dealing with citizen empowerment through technology), we come to similar conclusions. In fact, the Remix the Commons project is based on an international conference on the notions of the commons (and public good), which took place in Berlin, a few years ago.

  • poke

    The source for Jobs being influenced by “The Innovator’s Dilemma” is Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. In Chapter 31, after citing Christensen’s comments on the iPod, Isaacson writes that “Jobs was deeply influenced by his book The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Later, in Chapter 40, he quotes Jobs discussing iCloud and Jobs says, “It’s important that we make this transformation, because of what Clayton Christensen calls ‘the innovator’s dilemma,’ where people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it, and we certainly don’t want to be left behind.”

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Thanks. This is very useful.

  • OpenMinde

    I offer my two cents here. Apple was burned once by Microsoft licensing a good enough OS to other OEMs. At that time good-enough modular approach triumphs integrated approach. Apple/Steve learn a lesson and will not allow it to happen again. So three defense/offense lines: 1) Make integrated approach always better than modular approach at the comparable price, i.e. $499 iPad, $0 3GS, etc. 2) Stop the licensing model, hence modular approach. Apple goes after Samsung, HTC, etc. and forces them to develop their own OS. I bet that if Samsung, HTC have their OS with some patent stealing, Apple probably would let them go as long as there is no single widely adopted OS. 3) Go after the root of problem, Google. Destroy its cash cow, search and ad, by front end AI and natural language.

    • Hossein

      You guys are smoking something very strong. Enjoy your hallucinations!

      • OpenMinde

        I have smoke salmon last night, does it count?

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        Sure, it counts, but what was the Salmon smoking?

      • http://profiles.google.com/mcmaster.patrick Patrick McMaster

        I would agree that Apple actually taking search away from Google is unlikely. It is reasonable that Apple could take some of search and marginally effect Google. The change in interfaces is where Apple really has the most knowledge. Their integration and painstaking iterative growth makes it easier to nail down interfaces. The real question is does Apple have the talent on board to do databases and online functions at the level of Google. So far the answer is no. Perhaps this is one area where a new look at things will help. The problem is adding this expertise without losing the things that got them here. Microsoft has not done this, but they are not as willing to change as Apple has been. Siri and iCloud are the real question marks. So far it looks like Siri is a b+ and iCloud is a c.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        I think you’re missing the point. Apple is not going to steal search from Google. It’s not directly attacking Google. It’s flanking google and going after the supply lines.

        Apple need not develop replicate Google’s work. Apple only needs to have Siri connect to the sites that Google indexes and scrapes. Example: If you search for restaurants, Siri bypasses Google Search and gets information directly from Yelp.

        If Apple really needs to own a bunch of these databases, it doesn’t have to develop them internally. It’s got, what? $80 Billion in cash?

        Then there are going to be all the other Siri-like UIs that will come into existence. How are those going to support search based advertising revenue? If Google goes beyond its Android voice control and comes up with something equivalent to Siri, how are they going to monetize it? Not through search based advertising, unless they expect users to listen to “a word from our sponsors” while their service/UI goes off in search of info. How’s that going to go over?

        Siri has applications in other markets. Cars, TVs, homes, spaceships. Markets that Google has been actively trying to enter or preparing to enter. Apple has effectively fenced Google out from these markets.

        Siri is, broadly speaking, in its third iteration: 1) DARPA project; 2) Spin off start up company with an iOS app; 3) Integrated system UI. It’s in it’s infancy and “learning to walk”. You give it a b+. What voice based UI gets an A in your book? Did you (assuming you have kids) or will you (assuming you’re going to) give letter grades to your children when they were learning to walk and talk? :D Wait until it gets out of beta before grading please. Did your teachers and profs grade your term papers in their early drafts, or did they wait for you to turn in a final draft?

      • berult

        Why ho why hasn’t Apple given a human face to Siri’s footprint onto their ecosystem…? A microphone…!?

        Well, i’m inconspicuously touching on Google’s fundamental perspective on we …mere mortals. Human beings linger on as perpetual beta releases of the ultimate Google coded paradigm. Had Siri been Google’s entry into AI, a human like visage would appropriately infer a beta release, and a microphone …the final and ultimate version of Google intelligent assistant.

        As fate would have it, Apple has indeed gotten symbolism to harmonize with its procreating vision. Siri, as any Gynecologist/Obstetrician would suggest, is going to get a visage out of beta. 

        For appropriate gestation of a cunning beta release, it only needs a suggestive microphone as alpha male erected organ, and a tentative voice as delta female ushering in organ.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        Taking search share away from Google is unlikely. But that’s not how disruption happens. What will undermine Google will be that search becomes archaic. Imagine trying to explain to future generations that at one time you had to type something called “queries” into a little window in something called “a browser” in order to find information. It will be as quaint as using a command line to interact with computers or turning a crank to start a car.

      • kevin

        If mobile is the future (as Google said), and if mobile search becomes more significant than desktop search, and if iOS users continue to account for at least 66% of all Google mobile searches, then if Siri, over time, displaces 80% of those searches, … well, you can do the math, no need to hallucinate.

      • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

        What’s even worse, Siri won’t be confined to mobile. Coming soon(er or later) to your Mac, your car, your Hi Def TV set, your house, your boxer briefs. :D

        Siri and Siri clones (you know they are coming) threaten to cut off Google’s air supply in mobile, on the desktop, and in new applications/spaces where Google wants to be. If Google were to match Apple with a similar product, that’d be akin to self-asphyxiation.

        Maybe this is why Google is going into the hardware business.

  • Tim F.

    Considering Jobs history with Apple and generally suffering through 30 years of “thermonuclear options” being hurled at Apple by all comers (not just Microsoft), I think Steve is perfectly equipped (and also likely to fall victim to going thermonuclear) while being able to execute his own broader strategies at the same time.

    I also think the fundamental disagreement isn’t over Android in general or a particularly good HTC model either. I think you do have to keep an eye on your competition, and Steve thought Google agreed it was Microsoft. When Microsoft didn’t materialize as the real threat, Google pivoted, directing its attention at Apple — and Steve doesn’t like betrayal. Google had to pivot to aim its competitive attention towards Apple and, in turn, that leads them to copying Apple (consumer focus, app stores, media content, consumer apps, maybe vertically integrated devices some day) more than Microsoft (enterprise, professional use, large data sets, vast internet services, surfacing information from large data sets, free utilities and software). Rather than the two partners eliminating Microsoft by doing what they each do best, attacking Microsoft from left and right, now the two companies are entering each others markets, aping each others moves, trying to achieve parity, stay ahead, anticipate, outflank. In the process, both companies could go astray and try to do things they can’t do or can’t do well.

    Hopefully, Steve’s thermonuclear option was more metaphorical and has to do, in part with Microsoft’s (and maybe Steve’s and/or Tim Cook’s) financial and legal ruthlessness, but also involves maintaining Apple’s strategic focus along with trying to turn Google’s strategy in upon itself. I’m not sure I would primarily consider “thermonuclear” in the context of patents or other litigation.

    In fact, the most “obvious” thermonuclear option for Apple is to provide iOS devices at the low margins of its competition. That choice is the one which hurts both Apple and Google the most, not patents — which as you point out, typically achieve equilibrium in time.

    • Tim F.

      Damn, a misplaced parenthesis in the 1st sentence; should be:

      Considering Jobs history with Apple and generally suffering through 30 years of “thermonuclear options” being hurled at Apple by all comers (not just Microsoft), I think Steve is perfectly equipped (and also likely to fall victim0 to going thermonuclear while being able to execute his own broader strategies at the same time.

      The TL;DR version: For me, the primary meaning of thermonuclear implies mutually assured destruction. Steve knows well that patent litigation doesn’t achieve a final victory, whether or not it also includes your own demise. However, competing on cost — the primary benefit and differentiator of Android (no, not freedom) — would stifle Android adoption AND be the most harmful course of action for Apple. For Steve, Apple’s “thermonuclear” would be going cheap. Not patents.

    • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

      What never made sense was why Google felt the need to declare war (by imitating the iPhone) on Apple to begin with. They had a relationship with Apple that was giving them mobile advertising revenue. Indeed, to this day, the bulk of their mobile advertising revenue comes from iOS devices. One has to wonder what they were thinking.

      They’ve proved themselves to be quite agile in developing Android, shifting from a BB clone to an iPhone in less than a year (possibly with more lead time, since Schmidt had access to the iPhone), but it’s hard to see the course they took as a well thought out strategy. As things currently stand, they’ve entered the hardware business, their mobile product is enriching and strengthening Microsoft, they’ve made a mortal enemy of an ally, and, if the Oracle case goes badly for them, they might be directly paying a hefty annual royalty to Larry Ellison. This could mean that they lose money on each and every Android activation.

      For all the success of Android, it could still be a disaster for Google. And now Siri is threatening to cut off their oxygen: search based advertising. And Siri isn’t limited to mobile (even if the beta is currently limited to 4S users).

      Google might win the tactical battle over Android, but it’s difficult to see how they can win the larger strategic war.

      • Anonymous

        Lets not forget, they laid down 12Bn to acquire a hardware maker that is making losses in its best quarters…

      • OpenMinde

        Let’s me try a wild guess without any substantial facts. Google knows its search-induced ad business model has reached its peak and will go down from here. Siri will kill search-induced ad business. If Google can’t come up Siri copycat, it is dead, period. If Google come up good-enough Siri copycat, it’s ad business is dead again. With instant answers from Siri, where and when do you insert ads into? Man, this is huge paradigm shift. Either you do or don’t do, you are dead as ads business, Google.

        Another thought. Before Google, ads are displayed on aggregated sites, e.g. Yahoo, special interested magazines, yellowpages, etc. Then Google came along with a general purpose search engine with ads. That puts all those aggregated sites out of business (almost). Now an AI-based personal assistant enables personalized instant answer to your search, general purpose search engine is out of date (not dead though, but less relevant). It likes iPad (media consuming device) makes PC (general purpose computer) out of date (not dead though, but less relevant).

      • Anonymous

        Oh no, not more “Siri will take over the world!” tripe. Are you going to have Siri tell you what a video looks like? No, you’re going to watch it with ads on YouTube. Are you going to have Siri screen-read a whole media-rich website for you? No, you’re going to view it in your web browser with Google Ads in the sidebar.

      • masquisieras

        The Google problem is that Siri don’t need to take over the world to be a huge problem. The Google Search-ad business is highly scale and network dependent. Bing is a tenth of size and loose money while Google makes billions, that indicated that a reduction due to Siri of a 1% could cost much more that a 1% of profit to Google. Plus Siri open the possibility of specialized, local and smaller search engines to compete that could lead to a growing others section at the search market.
        And Siri signal the interest of Apple to cut out Google of the iOS market.
        I think that is the real Jobs thermonuclear option Siri cutting traffic to Google, creating new competition with no-ad supported search and if most of basic internet search in iOS became voice Siri activated Apple could move them to Bing with no user complain, add the map acquisitions of Apple and seems clear that Google maps are not going to live for long in Apple products.

        Jobs call it thermonuclear but I think it means as total destruction but the real strategy is going to be more a thousand cut guerrilla war.

      • Walt French

        “What never made sense was why Google felt the need to declare war (by imitating the iPhone) on Apple to begin with.”

        Here’s another guess: Google did a payoff matrix (elementary Game Theory tool) on Android and found that it didn’t matter who took a dominant share of mobile internet; it would be bad if it wasn’t Google.

        They needed to move fast (and did they ever!). They borrowed heavily from Apple and Oracle (suits pending) and enlisted every ally they could find, most notably Verizon, the OHA manufacturers and developers. Verizon profited greatly; the OHA manufacturers at least are in the game; the developers get some attaboys and feel-goods to offset their miserable economics. (The hopelessly logorrheic Communities Dominate Brands site worked up the estimate of 3¢ per Android ad-supported app that gets downloaded. I SWAG that break-even for a slapdash app comes somewhere around the top decile of popularity; losses, sometimes near-total, for most less-popular apps. Economics for Apple app developers are significantly, but not night-vs-day, different.)

        Per Horace’s analysis of 2006 Google, the firm already had its sights set on Microsoft, which, by controlling internet access could lock Google out. Then the iPhone shows up and Google has to overcome not just MS, but also Apple. Since their “draconian world where one man, one company…” shtick was already on the shelf and not locked in on Microsoft, a slight tweak keeps the developers fired up and motivated to fight the Good Fight for Google’s greater good.

        And while I think Google was mostly mouthing the sort of propaganda that you normally hear called “the fog of war,” how could they NOT have been correct in assuming that, had Apple gained 75% market share of mobile internet with Microsoft and some bit players taking the rest, Apple’s subsequent negotiations for Google search, maps and whatnot would’ve resulted in a LOT less revenue opportunity for Google. Elementary game theory. Android has been VERY expensive IMHO but the alternative could’ve been worse.

        So Google’s war was essentially defensive, and so far it has had the side benefit of giving Google a strong foothold in a brand new market. Some of its proxy combatants, e.g., the developers, volunteered to support Google but will get only attaboys as payback; the OEMs may or may not eventually make decent returns on their investments. And Google is now in a position, unless Microsoft, Oracle and Apple tighten the IP screws too hard, to rebuff Nokia’s attempt at a re- or simple-surgence with WP7.

      • Anonymous

        I’m guessing they just looked at how much control Microsoft gained from dominating PCs and decided not to let Apple do that with the mobile market, which is really the primary computing market of the future.

      • Anonymous

        Google was wise enough to recognize they had the opportunity to dominate an emerging market, smartphones, which they have clearly succeeded at doing.

        What is more precise than your saying “the bulk of their mobile advertising revenue comes from iOS devices” is that it comes from the iPad, specifically. It’s my personal opinion that iPad, at 66%, will be less than 50% marketshare within 2 years, and will continue downward from there. Android entered tablets late, but they have done quite well to go from 2.3% to 26.7% marketshare within 12 months.

        Google entered the browser market with Chrome even though they were getting plenty of search traffic from their partner, Mozilla. Google likes to define platforms in their favor, which often includes preventing a competitor’s closed platform from succeeding by creating an open one. Google’s core products, search and advertising, are so far ahead of their competitors that with an open platform, Google wins. People are happy to choose to search with Google, and use many of their services. Ensuring the mobile platforms that will dominate computing are geared towards using Google with them is to Google’s huge advantage.

        I’d hate to see what huge strategic advantages Google would lose if Apple analysts were running their company. Short term profits for long term irrelevance?

      • Anonymous

        Google was wise enough to recognize they had the opportunity to dominate an emerging market, smartphones, which they have clearly succeeded at doing.

        What is more precise than your saying “the bulk of their mobile advertising revenue comes from iOS devices” is that it comes from the iPad, specifically. It’s my personal opinion that iPad, at 66%, will be less than 50% marketshare within 2 years, and will continue downward from there. Android entered tablets late, but they have done quite well to go from 2.3% to 26.7% marketshare within 12 months.

        Google entered the browser market with Chrome even though they were getting plenty of search traffic from their partner, Mozilla. Google likes to define platforms in their favor, which often includes preventing a competitor’s closed platform from succeeding by creating an open one. Google’s core products, search and advertising, are so far ahead of their competitors that with an open platform, Google wins. People are happy to choose to search with Google, and use many of their services. Ensuring the mobile platforms that will dominate computing are geared towards using Google with them is to Google’s huge advantage.

        I’d hate to see what huge strategic advantages Google would lose if Apple analysts were running their company. Short term profits for long term irrelevance?

  • Kan

    Rename this the Apple Blog. It seems all you do is wax lyrical about Apple – add little new to the debate.

    • Kan

      Copying or aping apple is not going to be the solution for competitors. You can study and gape at Apple as long as you like. The lessons you learn from Apple are simple – control everything and consider your customers as children and control their whole experience. You are locked in.

      Nice you have to resort to swearing – proves my point. Alternative views are dismissed if they dont comply with the Apple mantra – and heres me thinking there is freedom of expression.

      Photostream is brilliant – you can’t delete images. Thats Apple they code like kids and then add some nice icons and you think that is technology.

      • kevin

        Obviously, you’ve missed the lessons of a many of these articles, since they have nothing to do with controlling customers, but show how Apple could be working the supply chain and the distribution chain. There is something to be learned by competitors.

        As you implied but didn’t say specifically, copying Apple’s device features without going beyond or adding something different that really matters to and does a job for consumers, is a sure recipe for losing. But somehow, most of Apple’s competitors think that is all they need to do.

      • Kan

        There is no lesson here. Their control of the supply chain is nothing special – if it was their tearddown costs would be significantly different from their competitors or their ability to ramp up production – its not. If you want to analyse supply chains take a look at Toytota who make far more complex items than consumer electronics.

        Also this so called brilliant supply chain is based on off the shelf parts and Samsung and LG combined provide over 50% of the costs of the iphone parts. Apples competitors so I think they must know a thing or two.

        Apple value added if you want to call it that is their brand – pure and simple and the cult following. Take a pair of jeans and add an Armani logo onto it and it goes from a $15 to $250. Apple pursuing Samsung in the courts over disputes that revolve around icons, the packaging, general shape are all centered around their need to protect their Brand.

        You want an analysys of Apple look at fashion houses and how they protect their brand they full well know the intrinsic value of their goods is fractions of their selling price. The same would apply to say swiss made watches against say german made watches yet even if they are of equal finish because it has a made in switzerland logo people infer certain aspects and pay more.

        To beat Apple its competitors need to think like fashon houses and create a brand and protect it religiously it’s not about pure technology.

        Analysing Apple because its the biggest company by market cap only shows just how captured and cultish its customers and audience are. If tomorrow every single Apple product stopped working I do think they world would still go round. You cannot say the same for Intel, Exxon, Microsoft, Oracle etc.. Apple doesn’t provide anything that is essential yet its becomes the worlds largest corporation.

      • kevin

        We’re not analyzing Apple because it’s the biggest company by market cap. We were doing this long before that came to be. Anyone should know that Apple is being analyzed because it has been disruptive to established markets. The question what can we learn from how they did it?

        It sounds like you claim its simply because of branding.
        To argue your position well, you would need to explain with data what happened with Apple and the Mac. Apple was a brand with “cultish” customers back in the 1980s and 1990s as well. MS, HP/Compaq, and many other brands are still competitors from that era, but it’s not working out the same way anymore. What has changed – Apple, the competitors, the markets? And how?

        You would also need to explain with data why Sony, RIM (Blackberry), Nokia, MS, and HP are failing – all of them are or were valued and established brands over this last decade and some still are regularly in Top 10 brand rankings.

        Finally, why should there have to be any connection between “essential” and the “world’s largest corporation”? In any case, you’re saying that cell phones (almost anytime/anywhere voice/text communication), entertainment, information access, and shopping/banking/commerce aren’t integral to their quality of life. I think billions of people would disagree with you even as you presumptuously judge and look down on them.

      • Kan

        Your final paragraph makes no sense. I said apple products I didn’t say cellphones or banking etc. The presumption is correct its why you did not actually challenge it directly.

        Stallman puts it best in his words.
        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/28/stallman_criticises_steve_jobs_again/

        Steve was Apple messiah and without him they tottered around until he returned. We live in a celebrity obsessed times and Steve was a big draw for the Apple cult followers.

        HP/ Nokia /Sony etc fell into the trap of big corporations – they are run by mindless MBA suits who lack any clear vision and strategy and are more involved with doing endless amounts of market research that tells them nothing more than what they know now and produce products that are technically good and acceptable but lack that extra element.

        Steve Jobs himself said brand was key. Look at it dispassionatley there is nothing special the iphone does over its competition its not even secure yet it sells because it has a cool factor. Apple has a great marketing team and a horde of brainless so called tech journalists who really are not tech people – most have arts degrees. They create a cacophony of sound which permeates the airwaves.

      • kevin

        You said Apple provides nothing essential. Apple provides cellphones (now a majority of its revenue and profit). Thus, cellphones are not essential.

        Cellphones are used for communications, commerce, entertainment, among other things. But you said cellphones are not essential, thus communications, commerce, and entertainment are not essential. Is that spelled out enough?

        Then you originally said the reason for Apple’s success was brand but this response seems to say HP/Nokia/Sony fell despite their brand power. So maybe it’s not brand that leads to success… You see, I am specifically addressing your assertion that it’s about brand.

        You also seem to say that only tech people are qualified to be tech journalists even though most consumers don’t really care about tech; they just want to accomplish tasks and enjoy life. Not sure why I need a tech person to tell me whether a product can do that or not.

      • Kan

        I like your straw man argument its really weak. Does Apple produce all the cellphones in the world? No it produces about 5%.

        You have comprehension issues if you can’t understand the point I made – its clear that you are trying to challenge it by arguing with your straw man argument. Carry on.

        HP?NOkia do not have the same brand power as Apple. You really are clutching at straws. Apples brand is its star power and its cult followers.

        Taking your point re Tech journalists – next time you need to see a Dr go see the plumber. Again with yout straw argument. I dismiss these tech journalists as they lack real understanding and knowlege underpiining of what they are writing about. Read Tech Crunch, Engadget, BGR and you get a sense of the real lack of tech knowledge – errors abound.

      • kevin

        You wrote “doesn’t provide anything.” Clearly, even 1% is more than that.

        What does a plumber know about medicine? Very little.

        What does a real tech journalist know about ease of use, availability of content, customer support, picture quality? Very little. I suppose a real tech journalist knows about MHz, GB, pipelines, and MP, none of which have that much do with what a user can decide for themselves.

        As for the rest, you haven’t actually provided any evidence or answers for any of your assertions. A big zero. Instead, you’ve just gone on the offensive, like trolls do.

      • Kan

        I thought as much you are now left with name calling and pedantic behaviour.

        Lets look at one aspect – picture quality – this really puts the issue into perspective. The IP4 over saturation of images makes pictures burst and come to life but are not realistic representation like you will get with an N8 yet the public and journalists go for the “eye candy” image where perception overrides reality.

      • kevin

        Hey, I’ve tried to have an exchange of ideas with you and asked you several times to provide data.
        But you’ve refused, so just concluding that Marcos was right all along three days ago.
        Just telling it like it is.

      • masquisieras

        but DisplayMate say by there measurements the iphone4 is undersaturated due to weak Red and Blue primaries although a bit too contrasty due to somewhat high gamma.

        So or you are not that good at explaining the defects or maybe is you the one
        taken over by the supposed more “realistic” N8.

        The thing is you are beginning with the assumption that is only the brand that play in Apple favor.

        But you has never prove the assumption.
        The people that like most of apple products tend to be a bit over protectives mostly from people that came to hard saying that their are only a group of cultist that don’t know what they are buying. Mostly because explaining why one choose an Apple product is usually for a cumuli of thing is like trying to explain why you prefer chocolate to strawberry
        (althought everybody know vanilla is the best ;P)

      • kevin

        By the way, even just three years ago, Nokia’s brand power was greater than Apple’s.

        And from 1997 to 2007, Steve Jobs was far from the cult figure he is in 2011. And yet lowly beleaguered Apple and unheard of Pixar rose up and disrupted industries.

        You’re simply projecting today’s Apple brand power onto all of the last ten years as if it was always like it is today, when it wasn’t. It doesn’t work that way, sorry.

      • Kan

        You are falling into the same trap when it comes to thinking about Apple.

        Their brand under Steve was ruthlessly controlled – what has spread is the message through the uptake of the iphone.

        Steve jobs was a cult figure for Apple fans and not only in the last 10 years.

        The rise of Pixar had more to do with John Lassiter brilliance and great story telling.

        Taken from Wikipedia.

        Psychologist Dave Levine argues that the Mac community has a religious feeling, providing a sense of community and common heritage for those who have rejected religion. Russell Belk argues that, like a religion, the Cult of Mac is a belief system that helps its followers understand technology and the world

      • kevin

        Except that 10 years ago, despite Jobs being a cult figure to Mac owners, Apple was beleaguered and even with the iMac, it was not growing. Somehow that changed, and hundreds of millions of people, mostly those who owned PCs, bought iPods, iPhones, and iPads. How did they get sucked into the Jobs cult?

        Also, Lasseter and Catmullhave consistently given the credit for Pixar to Jobs.

      • Anonymous

        It’s no secret that writers, along with graphic designers, web designers, and other sorts of “artsy” people, like Apple products more than the rest of the world does. I think study after study shows that.

        And yeah, it’s these same people who review Apple products. iPhone 4S, while a disappointment to everyone on its announcement, still gets plenty of “head-to-head” comparisons by these same writers who almost universally gloss over the iPhone’s weakness and overstate their strengths.

        These same writers are friends with other writers and bloggers who share the same preferences and it becomes one big echo chamber. These same “artsy” types wield too much influence in the tech world for its own good.

      • Mark

        A simpler question: Based on what you just said about HP/Nokia/Sony, is it brand or is it the “extra element” that leads to success? Or is the “nothing special” except for the “cool factor” or is it “great marketing team”, or is it Steve “the Messiah”?

        And which is better able to recognize the “extra element”? “brainless so called tech journalists” or real tech journalists or neither (since both found the iPhone 4S to be a disappointment, but found Windows Phone 7 to be a success)?

      • Hossein

        Second paragraph is right to the point. Economist had an article on how harmful MBAs are for the economy.

        “The decline of the MBA will cut off the supply of bullshit at source”
        It is a good read: http://www.economist.com/node/14742624

      • Anonymous

        “Apple has a great marketing team and a horde of brainless so called tech journalists who really are not tech people – most have arts degrees.”

        Any yet you argue this whole thread on the basis of almost no knowledge of technology. The one time you try, on multitasking, you miss the mark completely by not actually knowing what it means.

        I assumed that you were one of those tech journalists with an arts degree.

        Maybe you’re one of the second rate “experts” who fear that their “expertise” won’t be needed in an Apple based IT environment.

      • Kan

        I think you should ask Apple that question what it means to multi task and threading.

        As I pointed out above.

        Carry on with the insults does the truth hurt so much you are reduced to namecalling and insults?

      • Anonymous

        “Also this so called brilliant supply chain is based on off the shelf parts and Samsung and LG combined provide over 50% of the costs of the iphone parts. Apples competitors so I think they must know a thing or two.”

        Your ignorance is showing through again. The most expensive part that Samsung supply is the processor. This processor is a significant part of the reason for the speed and low power consumption. Apple use part of Samsung that acts as a silicon foundry. But it is not an off the shelf part. Samsung have no right to produce that part for their own use, or to sell it to anyone else. The IP in the bart belongs to Apple, who license parts of it from ARM and others.

        “Apple pursuing Samsung in the courts over disputes that revolve around icons, the packaging, general shape are all centered around their need to protect their Brand.”

        And Apple pursuing Samsung about about gesture usage and data analysis pipelines are about protecting their product. It just so happens that protecting brand is quicker.

        But Apple protect both, because Samsung steal both.

        “Analysing Apple because its the biggest company by market cap only shows just how captured and cultish its customers and audience are.”

        I can think of no better reason to analyse a company than because it has the highest market cap.

        “If tomorrow every single Apple product stopped working I do think they world would still go round. You cannot say the same for Intel, Exxon, Microsoft, Oracle etc.. Apple doesn’t provide anything that is essential yet its becomes the worlds largest corporation.”

        Which really should make you worry. Because the chance of all of Microsoft’s products stopping working some tomorrow, must be quite significant.

      • Kan

        Hmm. I think you need to look at facts.

        http://www.isuppli.com/Teardowns/News/Pages/iPhone-4-Carries-Bill-of-Materials-of-187-51-According-to-iSuppli.aspx

        The processor is not the most expensive part Samsung provide. Its the Nand flash.

        Currently in the IP4s is also using flah by Hynix but the point remains the processor is not the single most expensive item Samsung provides.

        A little less huff and puff a little more thought next time.

      • Anonymous

        The Samsung supplied component is a PoP which consists of the APL0398 and the K4XKG643GB SDRAM in a single layered package. Using iSuppli’s figures thats $23.75.

        That iSupply teardown was for a 16G iPhone 4 but the basic model, and the only model since introduction of the 4S is an 8G.

        So the processor is still the most expensive component.

        So as you say, a little less huff and puff please.

        However the important point is that the processor is not an off the shelf component. It is an Apple specific component.

      • Kan

        More expensive than the display?

        That iSupply teardown was for a 16G iPhone 4 but the basic model, and the only model since introduction of the 4S is an 8G.

        <— you care to explain this?

        As to the CPU – its based on ARM designs and its modified slightly but to make out its radically different to other cpu designs really is baffling. Yep PA semi were making huge waves before Apple bought them.

      • Anonymous

        This discussion came from you calling it an off the shelf component.

        It is unnecessary to discuss how much IP PA add. It isn’t off the shelf. It is a custom component, Apple’s IP with content licensed from ARM.

        Which is what I said several rounds of your bullshit ago.

        and what I said earlier was “Your ignorance is showing through again. The most expensive part that Samsung supply is the processor.”

        Since the display is not made by Samsung, it’s price is irrelevant.

      • Kan

        More rubbish again from you. Unless a phone is made from 1 component — ha.

        So under your logic if I supply 2 components at a cost of $5 each if you provide one that costs $6 that you infer its more important in the build?

        Are you on crack as thats your argument.

      • Anonymous

        Wrong. I simply contradict your assertion that the iPhone was built from off the shelf parts. I pointed out that the processor component was not off the shelf.

        Since then you have tried and failed various ways to discredit this.

        Now you resort to complete vapour.

      • jawbroken

        “Their control of the supply chain is nothing special – if it was their tearddown costs would be significantly different from their competitors or their ability to ramp up production – its not.”

        A teardown, by its very nature, is just an estimate of the component cost by someone with no particular inside knowledge. How would it reflect the advantage of “control of the supply chain” in any way?

        This kind of cheap trolling shows no insight and just wastes everyone’s time. At least be careful not to say obviously stupid or illogical things.

    • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

      Please don’t feed the trolls, unless you plan to feed them to a bear.

      • kevin

        Maybe Kan is a troll, but despite his choice of words that when seen in others have usually shown a predisposed bias or frustration with Apple, he does seem to attempt to offer a contrarian reason for Apple’s success; one that is different than the ones we usually study here.

        Obviously, I think his answer is incomplete, but we might as well chew on it.

      • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

        Any explanation for Apple success that relies on a simple formula such as being a good marketing organization or having a great CEO or having a superior advertising strategy implies that it can be easily copied.
        It follows then that by hiring the marketing executives and even the whole team away from Apple a competitor could ensure the same “magic” for themselves. In fact, if you can pin down the exact cause of success then you can also value it. So if Apple’s excess market value is due to its marketing department then it means that department is worth, say, $100 billion. Surely then by spending a fraction of that like 10% on hiring their crack team then a competitor could presumably generate hundreds of billions of dollars of value. The answer is then to offer $1 billion to each key person in Apple’s marketing department. Is there any doubt that they would refuse? The return for everyone involved would be astronomical.
        However you might think again when you realize that people who have left Apple in the past did not somehow bring “magic” with them. The list is quite long.

      • Kan

        The marketing reinforces the brand. You don’t need their team to create a brand. The outpouring of affection for Jobs by Apple fans shows quite simply its cult status. Why were so many people touched by this? There is no logical need for them to to this unless they make their purchasing decisions not on logic. If you compare Apple to a religion – religion logically makes no sense and nor does the cultish love for Apple.

      • Mark

        Um, so how did the brand attain such a lofty status in the first place? Does marketing happen by itself, without a team?

      • Anonymous

        That would be called “grassroots marketing”, or “word-of-mouth,” though it’s only a partial explanation for Apple’s success.

        I agree with you that the actual marketing team is a big part too.

      • Kan

        Lets look at the definition of the word cult.

        “The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre.”

        That sums up a great deal of Apple fans.

      • Anonymous

        “… religion logically makes no sense and nor does the cultish love for Apple.”

        And the cultish fear and hatred of Apple that you display?

        Does that make sense? Most often it seems to be the signature of second rate IT “experts” who fear that systems which are easy to understand, will reduce the value of their outdated knowledge base.

      • Kan

        What fear do I have of Apple? If i make a point in contention of Apple you construe that as hatred? It seems that if you do not want debate then hysterical religion is apt.

        The second paragraph is laughable I don’t know where to start. It doesn’t even make sense.

      • Klaus Busse

        It’s very simple: People appreciate the care, the love for detail and good work which is displayed in most Apple products. Every tool carries the spirit of it’s creator. In this case, there are lots of them. This isn’t the magic created by an marketing afterthought, it’s deeply weaved in their products. People get that, and they connect.

        Sony was not too different 20 years ago in their Walkman days. These were lovely build machines, great surface finishes and switches, good layouts – and there were build because the people who constructed it loved Music.

        Listen to Jonathan Ive’s speech of the Jobs memorial, them you get an idea where the magic begins. You can buy that, yet not all of it, because you can’t afford it: It’s called Apple shares.

      • Kan

        You use the term “magic” as an adjective but that only indicates your level of cult fascination. There is nothing “magical” or unknown about Apple products – they do not bend or defy the laws of physic yet you imbue them with a sense of mysticism. This blind faith is seen in people of religion who have no evidence to back their claims other than their absolute belief they are right.

      • Alan

        There may not be anything magical or unknown, but there are things that are difficult to quantify / measure and things that are difficult to notice overtly with untrained eyes.

        For example, the icons used on the iPhone are far more graphically rich than the icons used in Android (at least the early renditions of Android – I haven’t seen it in a while). When I first saw an iPhone and later an Android phone it didn’t strike me that the icons were more graphically rich – it struck me that the Android phone didn’t look as good. I am comparing to Android since that is something more familiar to me than other smartphone platforms.

        Another example is the “responsiveness” of the touch screen. In the springboard or launcher screens the iPhone has always been remarkably responsive – you touch it and move your finger and it moves with you; you reach the end and it gracefully pulls away and bounces back to the edge. Other phones have added this, but initially it was unlike anything I’d ever seen or used before. I didn’t come away with a sense for how it worked, only that it felt very natural to pull and push the screen around and that it felt “right”.

        So you can pull out these sort of trite comparisons to a cult but I don’t believe that is the cause and effect at work. I believe the cause is very detailed engineering and software design / development and the effect is that users greatly enjoy using the products without having a complete or quantitative understanding of what makes it enjoyable.

        This is actually a very natural response – many people enjoy a good movie, for example, without being able to describe what about the writing, editing, or cinematography made them like it but only that they liked it.

        I can’t quite tell from your postings if you don’t understand this phenomenon or if you simply discount it or if you believe that other products display similar qualities but don’t get the attention you feel they deserve.

        But I give you points for tenaciousness – you have posted a lot here.

      • jawbroken

        Is english your first language? “magical” has more than one meaning, unrelated to the supernatural.

      • Kan

        That implication is based on a false premise. Look at the success of the Pepsi challenge – did Coke immitate the success?

        The cult of Apple is reinforced via tech journalists, websites like yours, apple evangelists etc. Getting Apple marketing guys is one step but you need the whole system.

        Its not enough to have the marketing strategy and team – you have to get the cult following.

        A simple example is that prior to multi-tasking was available on i/os (well its currently not true multi-tasking in the sense of the word) it was not required but then when it became available it was trumpeted by all the tech commentators. Now why does this apparent bias, hypocrisy, lack of understanding or whatever you want to call it exist?

      • Anonymous

        Sorry but this is typical ignorance. You clearly don’t actually know what multitasking means in the OS sense.

        iOS has always been a multitasking operating system since the day that it was released. It is, after all, built on Unix. Do a “ps -ef” and you will find that there are the usual set of suspects running at all times.

        Exactly this misunderstanding was why, for example, Android drones used to falsely claim that iPhone users couldn’t listen to music and read your email at the same time. This was always untrue.

        However when 3rd party apps were originally introduced, Apple decided not to allow 3rd party apps to execute in the background when they did not have the screen focus.

        In most situations, on such a small screen device, this was transparent to the user, but had the advantage of extending battery life, improving memory management, and reducing the opportunities for malware.

        Android took no such precautions, as a result of which it suffered from terrible battery life, performance dropping dead with multiple apps, and significant malware problems, and only later started to add in many of the restrictions that Apple had applied to start with.

      • Kan

        Your assumption I am an Android fan is misplaced I am not. But I suppose it fits in with your world view. Anyway.

        So Apple version of multi tasking where you are restricted to 7 services is true multitasking? I think you know the answer to that.

        The irony of suffering from terrible battery life is not lost on you – or is the current issue with ios5 and battery drain not real?

        As to ability to multitask in eh true sense and still have great battery life have a look at Symbian on its technical merits.

      • Anonymous

        7 Services? Looks like you’re don’t actually know what a service is either.

        Clearly you didn’t try a “ps -ef”.

        Have you any idea what a massive task it would be to remove multitasking from Unix. Unix is built from the ground up as a multitasking OS.

        Hint. Multitasking does NOT describe running multiple user applications at the same time, which is what you appear to think it is.

        It you have an issue with the Unix multitasking model then please get specific about what it is.

        As for reports of increased battery consumption at 5, this has been reported by a small percentage of users on previous major revisions. Usually it’s just people failing to update their carrier configuration. If it’s real and significant it’ll get fixed by a service release.

        “As to ability to multitask in eh true sense and still have great battery life have a look at Symbian on its technical merits.”

        Many Symbian phone builders that knew far more about Symbian than I wish to know, an who had a vested interest in making it work, have concluded that it was a dead duck and dumped it. Why would I doubt their view. It’s pretty nasty anyway.

      • Kan

        http://www.anandtech.com/show/3779/apples-ios-4-explored/2

        Its everywhere Apple description of their seven background services.

        Lol at the Unix reference – I know tha architecture of ios and Android and Symbian. If you think by pushing the qualities of Unix imbues ios with something special then I would point out that the current security holes in ios are not due to Unix but Ios code. So where you stand on that? Or shall we point out the kernel similarities between ios and android?

        I do know what multi treading, daemons etc are but your condescending attitude only goes to show just how much foaming at the mouth you become when your faith is challenged.

        The battery issue it real but it seems your comment you are in denial.

        I like your anecdotal response to Symbian which answers a question I never asked. Put simply you have no idea about the technical merits.

      • Anonymous

        You really haven’t got a clue what a multitasking OS is have you. In unix the services are listed in /etc/services.

        The OS multitasks them perfectly.

        That you got the wrong word to describe what you wished to discuss, is your problem, not mine.

      • Kan

        Your really are such a kid.

        I am using the terms Scott Forstall is using.

        In iPhone OS 4, we’re providing those services as APIs to developers,”

        http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/04/apple-announces-multitasking-and-more-for-iphone-os-40.ars

        Wrong words then? Well it seems your VP of IOs is wrong then?

        Hilarious.

      • Anonymous

        Oh Dear. You get your understanding of technology by reading cheap journalism. That is a list of specific APIs that provide some type of application service. They are not OS services in the multitasking OS sense. They are API’s that provide some type of service to an app. Totally different topic.

      • Mark

        Clearly something is wrong with some of the iPhone 4S, but on my iPhone 4 upgraded with iOS 5, I am actually getting much much much better battery life. Whereas before it could run down a good 20-25% over 4-5 hours in a bad reception area (my desk at work), now it only goes down by about 3-4%. Could be that the software is more intelligent in seeking base stations, or in push notifications; don’t really know.

      • jawbroken

        It’s actually worse: you’re a Nokia fan.

  • Bill

    Horace,
    I second the comment about going outside your “depth.” I found the journey into patent history thought provoking and interesting. Please continue to push yourself (and your audience). However, it is the familiar that I would like to ask you about.

    You spoke about wanting to do a future show about how companies only succeed when they find a business without competition. I would ask that you think of counterfactuals here. In hindsight, I am sure you can you find something in every business success that was “without competition.” But how many new businesses are there where you can see that today?

    I think you can make the case that Walmart fit the theory by arguing that it was actually competing on distribution or scale, but that stretchs the theory too thin — to uselessness. People were buying food and clothing before Walmart existed and, from the beginning, the “Main Street” stores didn’t welcome those low-end consumers going out to the mall. (I would suggest that Christensen’s theories on disruption (Walmart was cheaper, but good enough for low end consumers) better explain Walmart’s success.)

    The point of this comment is to ask that you be careful about stretching Christensen’s theories to fit all circumstances. The result is to neuter the theory (ala string theory) to a level where it becomes simply descriptive with no predictive value. To me, this is the classic error of consultants: the proverbial, “to a man with a hammer, all things look like a nail.”

    But, please disprove me. Be tough on yourself and apply your lens to a list of businesses today and predict success and failure. It may be outside your comfort zone, but you will be able to look back on your own predictive success (or failure) and learn.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Wal-Mart got started by setting up shop in rural areas on land that was cheap and unused. Their business model was easily copied but nobody bothered.
      I firmly believe that any great business begins with no competition and grows prosperous because it never gets any.
      Here are some contemporary examples: Toyota Prius, YouTube, Geek Squad, iPod touch, BlackBerry (circa 2005), Android (vis-a-vis other licensed mobile OS such as Windows Mobile), The Critical Path podcast.

    • http://enkerli.wordpress.com Enkerli

      Agreed on the need for counterfactuals. Insight and critical thinking go hand in hand, so it wouldn’t do to focus only on examples which support the one hypothesis. Also agreed on the Golden Hammer problem with some compelling theories. It seems especially tricky in economics where any theory is treated as a law.

  • BruceM

    I didn’t know about how patents influenced the early development of the airplane. That’s an interesting story. There is another interesting story about “The Seldon Patent” and the early automobile.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selden_patent

  • wwox

    The old adage “Hold your friends close but your enemy even closer” was what Jobs was doing inviting Schmidt on the board of Apple – in the hope that his “pal” wouldn’t dare cross him over the smartphone development. At this level of management I think it’s one sociopath’s complaint against another and Jobs really should have known better. Be interesting to know what Jobs meant by thermonuclear.

  • http://twitter.com/Marcos_El_Malo Marcos_El_Malo

    Great podcast, Horace. You chose a good strategy for dealing with material outside your subject area: bits of history that were both interesting and apropos.

  • Greg Lomow

    I thought the discussion on patents was very shallow. No background on the purpose of patents. A lot of suggestions that Apple’s strategy was an either-or proposition as opposed to discussing the possibility that patents can be part of a broader strategy. Also the anecdotes seemed random and chosen to simply present one side of the story. NPR’s Planet Money did a much better job of presenting an informative perspective on patents in the IT industry. My suggestion is “stick to topics where you are an acknowledged expert”.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Alas, I’m not an acknowledged expert on anything.

  • Les S

    Maybe the thermonuclear option was just so much more smoke and mirrors that Messier Jobs seems to have been fond of while the real work stayed under the radar:

    http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2011/11/apple-wins-secret-patent-for-high-end-3d-object-recognition.html

    To whit:
    “What makes this a secret patent, is that it’s not directly linked to Polar Rose. The lead inventor associated with this invention is in fact noted as being Professor Kahl Fredrik of Sweden as we presented earlier, who has no ties to Polar Rose. The patent dates back to Q3 2005 and we have no idea whatsoever when Apple acquired the patent.

    Additionally, in order to truly secure the technology in the patent and to ensure that they knew how to implement the technology into iOS and its roadmap, they knew that they had to acquire Polar Rose. Apple also knew that one of the top PhD students studying under Professor Kahl Fredrik was none other than Martin Byröd who worked at C3 Technologies. So Apple went out to acquire this company and its “A-list player(s).” This is a common trait of Apple’s that is noted in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs; and Jobs was always pushing for Apple to hire only A-List employees and engineers. And in acquiring this patent and two of the key inventors and engineers behind today’s patent, Apple is securing the ability to take the technology to heights beyond what their competitors could ever achieve with similar wannabe and/or copycat technologies.”

    For some reason this podcast came to mind after reading this article.