The Apple and Samsung patent trial is expected to come to a close this week. Samsung is accused of infringing on iPhone and iPad patents in the design of their own devices. The outcome, be it either a win for Samsung or Apple, will likely influence the direction of how tablets will be designed and marketed worldwide.

In an Article in the NY Times, Nick Wingfield reports:

“But the effects of the case are likely to be felt far beyond these two companies. If Apple prevails, experts believe Samsung and other rivals in the market will have a much stronger incentive to distinguish their smartphone and tablet products with unique features and designs to avoid further legal tangles.”
read the article…

And this will be good news, because if the case goes Samsung’s way, then tablet features and design will continue to emulate the iPad and iOS experience, and I for one would look forward to seeing more innovation from Apple’s competitors both on the hardware and software side.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

tablet wars 2012 What was interesting for me as an app designer was that attention to detail Samsung paid in copying software features of what they clearly perceived to be a superior product. An internal 132 page Samsung report complained about the fact that Samsung’s design fell short of Apple’s example in key areas, and did so through a comparison of the two devices in the minutest detail; for example a discussion about the pixel width of the separator line between numbers displayed in the of the built in calculator.

This surprised me a bit, as Samsung is a device manufacturer, and I would have expected them to be concerned with tablet hardware features and price to differentiate itself from other Android based tablets and smartphones.

But it seems that the 132 page report points to examples of how Samsung tweaked the Android OS software. And thus contributing to one of the biggest issues that keep Android based tablets from winning the tablet wars for now: Device Fragmentation. There are 700 some varieties of Android devices, with 30+ different screen resolutions and countless manufacturer specific OS tweaks, and this is what presents enormous quality and design challenges for cross platform developers like us.

Tablet wars aren’t won by hardware: It’s the Apps, Stupid!

As an app designer and developer I may be biased, but to me the tablet wars in the end will come down to neither device features or price. To mis-quote Bill Clinton: “It’s the apps, stupid”. Having a vibrant app marketplace, and therefore having an enthusiastic developer community is what I think will continue to primarily influence the tablet wars.

Do hardware features matter?

Manufacturers would like you to believe that hardware features and price make a significant difference to consumers, but in the end the iPad tablet is not that deficient on the hardware front. And on the software side? Of course there are great apps available for Android, but on the whole an extra megapixel of camera resolution on a lesser known tablet may simply not make up for the variety, quality and choice of fantastic apps available on the iTunes App Stores.

All Apple has to do to keep pace and marketshare is to announce a slightly less expensive tablet, perhaps with a 7″ screen size…

Quick Poll: What is your opinion?

What do you value in your tablet?

According to reports this morning, the much anticipated “Slingplayer for iPhone” app has been rejected from the app store, apparently at the request of ATT, who are concerned about “bandwidth issues”.

However, I think this is a mis-direction, as I would point out that there is already currently a Windows Mobile version of Slingplayer that is fully functioning over ATT’s 3G as well as over Edge networks.

Rather I think ATT is using it’s iPhone monopoly to position it’s own video service that will be launched later this year.

I think the critical difference here is that ATT’s monopoly as service provider for the iPhone is strongly trending into consumer unfriendly lack of options, applications, innovation and flexibility.

We may see a WiFi only version of the Slingplayer (like Skype), but how does that compare to the fully enabled version for Windows Mobile?

According to PC Reports:

Meanwhile, another possible reason for SlingPlayer’s ban from the App Store could be AT&T’s speculated plans for its own mobile video services. The wireless carrier silently changed its terms of service at the end of March, basically prohibiting services like Sling is offering from its network.

But if AT&T won’t get to keep its exclusivity with the iPhone, maybe this kind of won’t happen anymore. That would allow users a bit more freedom with which apps they can get on their phone and how they actually use their (already capped)

mobile Internet.

I was following today’s iPhone OS3 announcement live event, and one thing in particular struck me:

Most of the advancements are focused on the app developer community, and while I agree that these will enable this community to produce far better and innovative apps, one feature in particular I think will change the application landscape for the iPhone completely: the ability to have optional paid content and subscription models within an app.

iPhone 3.0 in-application payments

In general I am in favor of multiple business models for developers to monetize their apps, however I do see this eventually resulting in a completely changed application landscape compared to what we know today, where freemium vs. free will reign, and where I believe a majority of applications will have limited functionality and some sort of premium concept.

Now Apple promised that free applications will indeed remain free, “no new taxes, read my lips”… But I think the temptation for re-designing existing apps to build in monetization will prove too tempting for the app dev community, and will result in fewer free apps in general, and fewer choices for consumers eventually.

Additionally, the concept of getting prompted via a fairly intrusive pop-up boxes to purchase content, or sign up for a subscription, rankles me a bit. My iPhone experience is based on being used to pay for an app once, and then enjoy seamless service, and the user experience of reading something only to be then prompted for premium content mid-stream does not sit well with me. Signing a once a year subscription may be OK too, if I value the service, but I don’t know if I’ll like to “pay as you go” for content.

Let’s hope that the bevy of OS3 features announced will make it all worth it in the end, and that the resulting increase in innovative apps will be just so cool, we will all be happy to pay for them, one subscription at a time.

What do you think?