Samsung Ought to Be Embarrassed and Ashamed
Aug 18, 2011 5:00 AM PT
Samsung used to be a consumer electronics brand that I appreciated and admired. I've owned several Samsung products over the years; in fact, I use one every day. I have a Samsung SyncMaster T240HD 24-inch monitor. It's a thing of beauty, actually, with a pleasing clear polycarbonate sort of frame with a touch of deep red layered beneath the clear plastic-like housing. I love it. The display is plenty sharp for me, quite adjustable, and best yet, this unit is also an HDTV and accepts all sorts of video input cables. When I bought it a couple of years ago, I found its overall feature set -- and price -- to be far more compelling than competing monitors and HDTVs in its class.
Then there's the Samsung that produces the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and Galaxy S line of smartphones.
One glance at these products and it doesn't take a genius to realize they are blatant copies of Apple's iPhone and iPad. Back in 2010 when Samsung announced the Galaxy S smartphone, I noticed the similarities but didn't really care at the time. I have a buddy who works at a cellular service company that didn't sell the iPhone, and he was all excited about getting in the Samsung Galaxy S. "It looks just like the iPhone 3GS," he said, noting the skepticism on my face. "No, really, it looks and feels so much like an iPhone it's crazy."
A week or so later, he showed me one in the store. He was right. Samsung later introduced the Samsung Galaxy S II. The design has evolved, and while it doesn't look exactly like an iPhone 4, it shares far more than a passing resemblance.
Is Samsung Really That Pathetic?
Enter the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. On the company's home page, one of the featured items is this new Android tablet. The page is no doubt dynamic, so it may change before you check it out. When I looked at it, it proudly showed off a floating Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the words "Hello Gorgeous" above it. Gorgeous indeed. To my eye, it looks just like a gorgeous iPad. Sure, the default orientation of the Galaxy tablet is horizontal vs. the iPad's portrait use, but the full-frontal sheet of glass surrounded by an inch or so of black border all wrapped by a metal frame with four curving edges ... looks remarkably iPad-like to me.
No wonder a German court barred Samsung from selling it in the European Union (then revised its ruling to apply only to Germany and German-run businesses when it realized it might not have such wide-ranging EU authority).
But That's Just a German Court
To most consumers, I believe, all the massive patent action that's been going on in the mobile space -- the buying and selling of companies for their patents, the lawsuits and such -- is all just a boring and sad little mess, particularly when the patent trolls do their thing from East Texas. Some of the patents are for "innovations" that are so far from being innovative that it makes an average Joe on the street confused and irritated that anyone could get a patent for them in the first place, never mind that Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos actually thought that mini airbags would make a great safety addition to a smartphone.
And then there's Samsung, which happens to provide a heckuva lot of electronic components to Apple. Someone at Samsung thought copying Apple's look and feel was a good idea. But it gets worse. Multiple people at Samsung had to either greenlight production or let production continue without stopping it. Maybe Samsung knew a little insider information on the design of Apple's products, and maybe the company didn't share that information with its mobile device designers. Either way, the results speak for themselves: What does this say about Samsung?
To me, it says the guys running Samsung have small imaginations. It says to me they don't respect themselves. And it tells me they don't believe they could create a successful tablet unless they built it with uncanny similarities to Apple's iPad line.
It's just so sad. I expect this kind of behavior and business model from hack-job electronics companies that crank out crappy knockoffs that are sold in shady electronic shops or backwater truck stops.
I thought Samsung was more creative. I thought Samsung hired smarter talent. I thought Samsung had more pride.
Hello, Gorgeous, indeed.
A Bunch of Lies
If you've been following the Samsung-Apple patent dispute over this, as well as how it was shaking out in Australia, it would appear that there's been some mud-slinging and spin doctoring of elements that weren't exactly true.
For instance, although VentureBeat reported that Samsung told VentureBeat that the company had "no notice" that Apple was requesting an injunction to ban the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Europe, VentureBeat later reported there were court filings that show Samsung knew what Apple was up to.
On the flip side, some court filings seemed to imply that Apple might have modified an image of the Galaxy tablet to make it look more like an iPad. It's possible, but I find such an intentional move unlikely because even when looked at horizontally, the Galaxy tablet already looks like an iPad clone.
Apple has also caught some flack for "timing" the lawsuit in such a way to cause disruption of Samsung's sales efforts in the EU. I hope it was intentional. If I were Apple, I'd time it to cause as much damage and disruption to Samsung's mobile business as possible -- because you can't bitch-slap a company in person, this is the only way to do it, unfortunately.
All in all, whether or not these lawsuits about the look and construction of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 vs. Apple's iPad fall in favor of Apple or Samsung, one thing is clear to me: Samsung needs to hire a lot of new talent. The company could start with grade school children who were actually embarrassed when they were caught copying the creations of their classmates.