Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book recommendation: Haunted Empire (Apple After Steve Jobs) by Yukari Iwatani Kane

This is the first time I do a post on a book, and it won't happen again in a long time. I strongly discourage publishers and authors from contacting me about book reviews (it happens all the time, actually) unless my work is mentioned in the book in question.

This post is not a review per se because I admittedly haven't had the time yet to read the book in full, but this book doesn't need yet another review. On the front page of "Haunted Empire -- Apple After Steve Jobs" by former Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, Walter Isaacson, author of the official Steve Jobs biography, calls this book "[o]ne of the most important business stories of our time" and says its author "brings us inside Apple at this critical moment with great insight and unparalleled reporting". Nuff said, I guess. Here's the front page (this post continues below the image):

There's a chapter on the summer 2012 Apple v. Samsung jury trial (this one I have indeed read), and it also mentions my work and how I experienced the billion-dollar verdict across considerable geographic distance.

The official release date is this coming Tuesday (March 18). You can find several links that lead you to online retailers on the author's official page for the book.

These are definitely interesting times at Apple. The next California trial against Samsung will kick off in two weeks from tomorrow (March 31), and it's actually an Apple v. Google trial (Google technologies are at issue and plenty of Google witnesses will appear) styled as an Apple v. Samsung trial. I'll talk about this more before the trial starts. Basically, what Apple is doing is to portray as an America v. Asia issue what is, at its technical heart, a Silicon Valley v. Silicon Valley, or Cupertino v. Mountain View, in-fight. The distance between the true rivals' headquarters is a 12-minute drive, not a 12-hour flight.

Apple can obviously choose whom in the Android value chain it targets with its lawsuits, but it will have to be somewhat careful about the America v. Asia theme this time around because Judge Koh strongly criticized its appeal to jurors' national bias at the November 2013 retrial in the first case.

Earlier this week I wrote about Apple's $40-per-unit damages claim. It has received more "Google +1" clicks than any other of my posts. I have seen many other critical comments on the amount and wish to highlight this commentary by Yankee Group Senior Analyst Boris Metodiev. Mr. Metodiev says Apple's claim is "nothing short of extraordinary" and "looks ridiculous", and he has "no idea how it came up with that number".

It would obviously have been much harder for Apple to present such a high per-unit claim if it had elected to sue Google rather than Samsung. Even Samsung's average per-device sales prices don't justify Apple's damages claim, but Google's revenue per Android copy distributed is much lower. Of course, there are damages theories that could be used against Google, but it's certainly more difficult, at least psychologically, to demand a high per-unit damages number from Google for five out of allegedly 250,000 patented inventions that are implemented in a smartphone.

Even this lawsuit won't be able to change anything about the fact that the "Haunted Empire" has strategically lost the platform battle. It now has to focus on defending the second place against, for example, Windows, which has even forged ahead of iOS in some markets. A recent Developer Economics report by VisionMobile says that "[t]he Mobile Developer Mindshare Q3 2013 shows Android leading at 71% of developers using the platform, followed by iOS at 56%", and the revenue gap is closing. A couple of years ago many developers had an iOS-first-Android-later approach. By now, more and more developers, especially those who focus on the global market and not just the U.S., do it the other way round.

These were just some personal Sunday morning reflections.

If you're bored enough on this Sunday to want to waste your time on something that is absolutely unrelated to IP but quite a coincidence, let me mention that I'm being (indirectly) sued by an Apple employee in my neighborhood (a biz dev guy working for Apple's German subsidiary in Munich). I was informally notified of his January 2014 complaint only on Wednesday, the day after I criticized Apple's $40 damages claim. It's a funny coincidence that after years of covering Apple's lawsuits and after more than 15 years without being sued by anyone over anything, I should now have to defend myself, in the role of an intervenor, against a lawsuit brought by an Apple guy. The percentage of Apple employees in this area is a lot lower than in Silicon Valley. But one employee of the "Haunted Empire" is apparently all it takes to be haunted by a lawsuit.

Fortunately, we have a "loser pays" rule here. It also benefits intervenors like me (the formal defendant is the Apple guy's landlady) and ensures trolls get the bill in the end. Then, we unfortunately don't have an equivalent to a motion to dismiss (or summary judgment) that would take care of a frivolous complaint early on.

That meritless lawsuit is based on the allegation that he and his family believe I could use my cameras, which clearly capture only a gate that I can't see from my house (I have a private road that is 50 meters long and there are some trees and hedges in between), and the door intercom system, which is four meters away from a hedge behind which the Apple guy has its garden, to spy on them and their conversations. Those who know the technology involved know it simply isn't possible; those who personally know me also know I wouldn't even try this (apart from the fact that I wouldn't have time for it; I monitor some Apple lawsuits, not its employees).

I had the cameras installed in 2012 (the number of burglaries has been on the rise here lately, about 10% per year) and before they were even installed, he had already thought that the motion detectors (that just make the light go on when it's dark) were cameras. He never communicated with me, only with his landlady who then contacted me, and I explained, through this channel, that motion detectors and cameras are different things. One can actually find pictures on the Internet that show those are just motion detectors. After this clarification, however, the problem surprisingly didn't go away. I was told that he still had a concern: one could hide a camera inside a motion detector, he said. The lawsuit is now about the real cameras and the door intercom system, but it has no more merit than the camera-hidden-in-motion-detector paranoia, which shows what kind of litigant I'm dealing with. Compared to that, I'll take the $40 per device thing any day of the week.

I know some other Apple people and the ones who talk to me directly (whether or not they have a problem) are not like him. Just wanted to clarify that ;-) But in such a large organization, I guess someone will always be haunted by something.

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