The US Patent Courts and Gizmodo fail to understand the word “invention” again

December 20, 2011mike Comments Off

It looks likely that HTC and possibly other android developers could be defeated in the US Patent Courts by Apple. Gizmodo correctly writes how this could be a blow to the consumer as it would limit competition and choice. I also completely agree with the Gizmodo article in that if Apple wins its battle with Android it should be in the marketplace and not the courts.

Where I disagree with Gizmodo, and with Mat Honan (again!), is his and much of the tech-blog community’s insistence that Apple is an inventor. I’m not taking particular issue with him or Gizmodo, but just the fact that all the larger tech blogs seem to say is “Apple, Apple, Apple” and trust me, Apple’s contributions to bringing products to the mainstream have been vast over the years, but also vastly overstated.

As Mat correctly points out Xerox was the inventor of the desktop GUI paradigm. That is something Mat likely saw in the film Pirates of Silicon Valley or perhaps another Apple fanboy book/blog/short-story/iMac wallpaper/hacky-sac circle. Where Mat, Gizmodo, and many tech blogs often steer wrong, perhaps due to the age or forgetfulness of the contributors is where the handheld computer came from… namely Palm.

I’m certain Palm Inc (US Robotics/3Com/Handspring/HP) was not the first company on the planet to have a “handheld computer” (PDA/Palm Pilot) they were the pioneers and it is my understand between the Palm Pilot, Treo and other Palm OS inventions, HP has about $3 billion worth of patents in that little overpriced Palm Inc acquisition.

For those whose history of handheld computers dates back to 2007 (with the release of the iPhone ’1′) let me fill you in on the pre-2007 history. Palm reinvented the portable computing world with the release of the PalmPilot in 1997, ten years before the iPhone. While Palm (with Tandy and Casio) had released a ‘PDA’ in the early 90′s, it was the Pilot (and later PalmPilot) that changed the world.

The various Palm PDAs (personal digital assistants) became synonymous with handheld computing, such that Palm was to PDA as Kleenex is to tissue (a genericized trademark). A quick glance at the early Palm OS looks remarkably like iOS. Flash to the introduction of color screens with the Palm IIIc and you’ll begin to see iOS even more, and then remove the “grafiti” area with the later Palm’s like the TX and there you have it… the iPhone minus the phone part (but with IR, bluetooth, and WiFi). To find the phone part… you need look to the Treo family of smartphones. Where you will see the aforementioned Palm OS meet a cellphone.

Sure that sounds more like a 10 second commercial for Palm then a history of smartphones… but if you squint and pick up a Palm TX and then an iPod Touch… you’re sure to find more similarities then differences!

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