Samsung describes their rather devastating courtroom loss to Apple this week as “a loss for the American consumer.” Not surprising they would see it that way, though it certainly seems like a gutsy (and ironic) move for a company found guilty of copycatting to insinuate that Apple’s legal victory could result in fewer phone choices featuring even less innovation in the mobile device market. To late Samsung, you already set the bar with that one.
More accurately, Apple’s legal victory changed the playing field for other big-name competitors like Microsoft. With a brand new logo, updated operating system and fresh tablet poised for release, the familiar tech giant has been handed a gift: a chance at increased relevance.
Anybody who watched with amazement at Samsung’s defense style during their recent trial will not be surprised that the company’s statements following the decision try harder to make Apple into some kind of bad guy than trying to restore consumer confidence in their brand. It may be wise for Samsung to consider that their interpretation of the decision, indicating that it is “unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners” seems a little ridiculous given how many other phone manufacturers there are that haven’t gotten themselves into trouble; last I checked, nobody was mistaking RIM’s Blackberry rectangles with rounded corners for Apple’s iPhone.
It came across sounding a little cheesy but Bill Cox, senior director of Windows Phone marketing communications was only partially right when he said: “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now.” The truth is, Microsoft in general is looking good right now. Whether the verdict ends up being overturned, upheld or even extended, the damage has been done. Samsung’s reputation has been damaged and their current mobile devices sit tarnished.
So it’s time for Microsoft to start proof reading everything, measuring twice, dotting their i’s and doing everything they can to try and ensure a smooth and flawless launch of their new products this fall. With Windows 8 promising a brand new user interface with a large number of upgrades to the traditional desktop environment and a brand new Surface tablet ready to run it, anybody without brand loyalty to Apple has a choice to make.
Unfortunately, Microsoft seems to be twiddling their thumbs with respect to Windows 8 and the smartphone market. Most manufacturers are noting that the Windows 8 upgrade will not be available for existing Windows 7-based smartphone hardware, which will be very frustrating for many already-Microsoft-engaged users. Of course, Samsung’s loss in court may be the catalyst needed for Microsoft to revisit this issue.
So what happens next? In addition to the check that Apple is expecting from Samsung for over $1 billion dollars in damages (which they should be able to handle with relative ease given their reported $12 billion in the bank), they could also choose to request an injunction against the Samsung devices that were determined to have infringed on its patents (a ruling which did not include the iPad competing Galaxy Tab). Of even bigger concern is the fact that a precedent has been set and many of Apple’s patents proven valid which could mean more lawsuits against more companies (like Google).
Chances are good that Samsung will appeal the decision and see another day in court, but with Apple stating that the “mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew,” it seems equally possible that a second trial could be even more devastating.