The technology industry has become a battle ground for patent disputes. Some have questioned their value. But Apple’s recent patent victory against Samsung gives a really clear message on the importance of a separate point of view.
But have some features become so generic, such as pinch-to-zoom, as to make it impossible to produce a smartphone without them? If true will competition suffer?
The answer depends on how consumers react. Will they substitute cool for safe now the market has become less predictable? Or will consumers see an opportunity to express their individualism in the devices that define them and embrace separate choices?
On the one hand picking a safer phone – one not subject to controversy – has become more important.
But individualism and personalization are on the rise. More and more we are defined but the devices we have and the lifestyles they support. Almost every industry has flourished by offering consumers choices and avoiding standardization.
What about the supply side of the equation? Some technologists may now be more fearful in bringing new ideas to market, now the bar on what is different is higher. But the more a product looks different the stronger their defense will be.
In truth, the smartphone industry is still in its early stages. Just like cars might have looked very similar in the thirties and forties so smart phones often resemble each other in our own time. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart without close inspection.
Windows Phone is certainly a separate point of view a distinction even more reinforced when Windows 8 comes to market in October. Also smartphones will not long survive as standalone devices but companion tools in a world of connected devices and applications where the platform becomes more important.
The smartphone industry is a young one but was already beginning to coalesce on devices that looked more and more standardized. The Apple verdict celebrates the importance of a separate point of view reinforcing the importance of creativity in a market that desperately needs it.