“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong…I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.” – Steve Jobs
After a surprisingly short time, the jury in the Apple vs. Samsung case has sent word that it has reached a verdict. The jury ruled overwhelmingly in favor of Apple, and awarded the company more than a billion dollars in damages. If you are like me, it is hard to see an upside for Samsung in all of this — until you come to realize that this could have been just a very smart and a strong strategic play.
News outlets and uber popular tech blogs covered the trial live on their respective blogs. The overall majority was shocked to see jury come to a conclusion in such a short time frame. My personal interest in this trial has been not only from patent infringement, media and social science perspectives but also from an user interaction design perspective.
For years, I have worked on and closely observed projects where we focused on making it painless for an user to interact with the system. System in this case is defined by any interface that interacts with the user. The end goal has always been to make the interaction as natural as possible. Afterall, a beautiful user experience dictates a product or service’s success in this day and age. The good enough standard of the past has been raised very high in almost every industry.
The factory era defined the basic user experience while the socially enabled, user centric information era defines and challenges the widely accepted user experience. These days, we are seeing interaction improvements all across the various industries. From commodity services to automotive to new computing interfaces. (Facebook is just plain old social from the early 90′s packaged into a sleek addictive user experience).
A successful business is one that is nimble and agile enough to understand where the market is moving today and where it will move tomorrow to not only survive but to succeed. Samsung realized this very early in the game that Apple’s design language and interaction had won the race in the mobile market space. Apple challenged the notion of fixed keys and proved everyone wrong. (Mind you: They weren’t the only ones but they were the first ones to not only improve the touch experience but also bring the experience to the masses in a more unified sense. (Ecosystem, Retail Experience, Packaging, Control, iTunes, etc.))
Instead of waiting around to replicate this natural design interaction, Samsung decided to strategically mimic it. Given the number of handsets they have produced on Google’s Android platform, they have not only capitalized on Apple’s design language but also evolved their own interpretation of it for later handsets that were not even considered in the trial — like the highly successful Samsung Note and Samsung Galaxy S3.
Samsung would’ve been no where if they hadn’t realized this early on. They would be facing the same fate as RIM. Not only did they become the #1 manufacturer’s of smart phones worldwide, they also replaced HTC and took RIM out. In fact, the pricing and positioning of their Android handsets have allowed them to become the alternative to RIM handsets for the masses.
If we recall, Microsoft paid $8 Billion to acquire Skype and they have yet to do something with it. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 ecosystem failed to penetrate the market while in the mean time, Samsung became the sought after manufacture of mobile devices worldwide. For a mere $1 Billion fine, Samsung is now #1 in the market with worldwide penetration and 2012 handsets command a lead position of their own.
Not too bad at all, unless the judge rules Samsung can’t sell its phones. During the process, the world has learned more about the secretive Apple design processes in greater depth and that wasn’t an easy task for Apple — given their internal culture. This has also opened up gates for Google and Motorola to sue to mitigate against Apple’s 2nd move towards the Android ecosystem. (We all know that Job hated Android and wanted to spend every penny against it).
With that being said, RIM and Nokia along with other Android manufacturers probably wish that they had gambled and copied iPhone like this.