Apple notched up a victory in its ongoing battle with competing tablet manufacturers this week when a United States court ruled in its favor to ban sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country.
The two companies have been firing patent infringement claims at each other for several months; this one finally went Apple’s way. US district judge Lucy Koh stated, “Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly by flooding the market with infringing products.”
Apple claimed that Samsung had “slavishly” and “blatantly” copied its designs for the handheld device.
Samsung wasted no time filing an appeal against the injunction and it is unlikely that the sales ban will notably hurt the South Korean company’s bottom line. It does, however, set a precedent in the industry in acting against the appearance of a competing product rather than against infringements of technology copyright. It is probable that a replacement Galaxy Tab will hit the shelves soon with just enough variance to keep Apple’s lawyers at bay … for the moment.
Apple has been aggressively using patent litigation to stifle the growth of Android, Google’s rival operating system, which runs on Samsung’s tablets. Less than a week ago, a federal judge in Chicago dismissed Apple’s claims against Google’s recently acquired Motorola Mobility division, stating that a ban on Motorola smart-phones would harm consumers.
Competition and rivalry in the tablet market is heating up and Apple, being the first to enter it and secure a solid foothold is not pleased. Only last week, Microsoft unveiled a device dubbed Surface that could rival the iPad and MacBook Pro at the same time (see Microsoft surfaces with tablet, June 23, 2012). PC manufacturers are already grumbling about Surface, which could well put another dent in their sales figures. Microsoft claimed that tablets will outsell desktop computers in 2013. “Touch is coming to PCs and that’s going to change the way UIs [user interfaces] are designed very dramatically, just like the mouse did.”
This week Google announced a new, low-cost tablet at its I/O developers conference in San Francisco. The search giant has teamed up with Taiwanese computer company Asus to produce the Nexus 7 tablet at only US$199, half the price of Apple’s lowest specification iPad. The device is expected to go on sale in July.
The seven-inch Nexus is aimed at Amazon’s successful Kindle Fire, also the same size; however it boasts a higher definition screen and superior graphics chipset. Further hardware specifications have yet to be officially confirmed though it is likely to sport a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of memory. Google is sourcing new ways to tap into the tablet market which, according to Gartner Inc, may double this year to 119 million units. Despite dominating over half the smart-phone market, it wants more exposure for Android on tablets, Android-powered tablets still have a long way to go to catch up with Apple’s iPad, which has a projected 61% market share this year.
Tablet apps remain the problem for Google’s Android as developers have yet to embrace it; Apple’s App Store on the other hand has 225,000 apps designed specifically for the iPad. Apps aside, the Android army marches forward regardless. Google announced this week that over a million Android-powered devices were activated every day. The company also announced a new version of the mobile operating system dubbed “Jellybean”. Loaded with new features and performance tweaks, Android 4.1 is likely to be the default operating system for the Nexus 7 and any new high-end tablets and smart-phones released by hardware partners such as Samsung, LG and HTC. Included in the upgrade is a new feature called voice typing which allows users to dictate paragraphs to the handset which will type it out. Sticking with the voice theme is voice search, a feature similar to Apple’s Siri which will act as a personal assistant. Also included are enhancements to the predictive keyboard, battery life management, screen manipulation, photo sharing and notifications.
Other announcements at the Google conference including upgrades to its search platform and social network Google+; a dare-devil skydive stunt was performed with Google Goggles, though little other information was revealed about the high-tech specs, and a new multimedia streaming set-top device called Nexus Q was unveiled.
The Google of today has many challenges on many different battlegrounds, and with high-hitting rivals including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook and products including tablets, search engines, social networks, operating systems, mobile phones, music, maps, books, cloud services, TV, and above all, advertising, it may be in danger of stretching itself too thinly.
Much to the chagrin of Apple, more tablets on the market means more choice for the consumer, so may the competition continue.