Posted by Martyn Casserly 18 September 2014
Why Apple and Samsung, Google and Microsoft's schoolyard spats make them all look stupid
At a recent bullying-prevention class in her school, my nine-year-old daughter was given some rather interesting advice. ‘Say something to confuse them!’ was what it boiled down to. This left me wondering if the teacher in question thought that bullies were, in fact, evil robots from 1970s sci-fi TV shows? Indeed, if they were, then this is sound advice, as a surreal response would instantly send the automaton into a spiralling frenzy of logic, bleating “Does not compute! Does not compute!”, until finally its circuits exploded in a cloud of confusion.
Like a playground spat, anyone who followed the patent disputes between Apple and Samsung over the past year or so will be able to tell you, the two companies aren’t very fond of each other.
The two companies locked horns repeatedly until it was decided that Samsung had to pay around a billion dollars in damages. This sparked one of our favourite modern internet rumours, when some people suggested that Samsung were filling up a fleet of trucks to deliver the blood money to the Apple campus all lovingly counted out in individual cents. As wonderful as this seemed, the logistics alone would probably have doubled the cost of the suit itself, so the literal mountain of money never came to be. Shame.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft flexed its advertising budget in the direction of Google, launching the Scroogled campaign. In this series of ads, the search specialist was presented as an untrustworthy menace, reading your emails, stealing your data, setting fire to your favourite scarf, mugging your cats, and generally being a jolly nuisance. Chromebooks had a separate mini-campaign, which included Z-list celebrities explaining how it wasn’t a real laptop because it didn’t run Windows or Office – which, of course, would be seen as a selling point by others. Microsoft got so excited with its Scroogled catchphrase that it even had T-shirts printed and sold them in its store. Google responded to the attacks by saying that competition in the wearable sector was indeed heating up, then dropped the microphone and left the stage.
China, seeing that the market for petty squabbles presented opportunities to create even more rabbit hutches for its citizens to live and work within, stepped up and made copious laptops in its own vast empire unreal by banning Windows 8 entirely on any government-linked machines. The reasons for this OSacide boiled down to the country mumbling something about energy emissions, but those of us who live to draw wild assumptions think it’s more likely linked to Microsoft’s outrageous behaviour when it prematurely ended support for Windows XP (which runs on an estimated 50 percent of PCs in China) after a paltry 13 years. How dare they.
Of course, it could also have had something to do with the US House Intelligence Committee declaring several months before that Chinese technology manufacturers Huawei and ZTE were spying on Americans through their routers and other branded devices. This became a particularly ironic claim when reports were subsequently leaked showing that the NSA had used invasive techniques to spy on Huawei corporate servers.
Of course, the NSA hadn’t just kept its generous surveillance and freedom-bringing joy to the Far East. Oh no. Sadly, it came as no great surprise when, now infamous whistleblower, Edward Snowden revealed that the agency had, in fact, been watching and storing pretty much everything that happened anywhere in the world – except for its own offices, which somehow seemed incapable of presenting records of its endeavours. So in a short space of time we’ve gone from a spat over how round a phone’s corner should be, to everyone in the world essentially living in the Big Brother house. To quote that paragon of modern journalism Ron Burgundy, ‘Wow, that escalated fast’.
The truth is, they’re usually such good companies. But when everyone’s watching, they sometimes get over-excited. A good night’s sleep and they’ll be as right as rain. What’s that Microsoft? Yes, you can wear the Scroogled shirt in bed, but tomorrow that goes to the charity shop. Now, no talking to Google or brokering trade agreements with China, you need your rest. Samsung, I don’t care what Apple’s doing. Does that mean you have to do the same? No. So put down that prototype and brush your teeth.