I like VW Bugs. Not the new ones, but the old classics from the 1960s and 1970s. I admit, I have a bias. I mastered driving a stick-shift on the hills of San Francisco in a 1974 Super Beetle, but part of my love for them comes from the fact that they don't look like every other car on the road. It's the same reason I like Old Woodies (no sniggering) and Jeeps. I recognised that in today's commercial world, you just can't avoid conformity, but that doesn't mean I want to own an obviously mass-produced product.
But it you want to own a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop today, you just can't avoid it. There are a few laptops that stand out among their brothers, like Alienware, but the majority of them look like they all rolled off the same assembly line. One industry tactic has been to add stickers to certain models in hopes of convincing people that racing strips work for computers as well as cars. A certain line from Fight Club about the ascetic failure of chicken feathers comes to mind. (There is only so much they'll let me get away with in print, so you'll have to look that up yourself.)
Since the launch of the iPhone, all smartphones look pretty much look alike. The same now goes for tablets. They're black. They're shiny. They have a small black border that runs around a touch screen.
This ubiquitous sameness is - er - everywhere, which is what makes the current lawsuit, make that lawsuits as of Thursday, between Samsung and Apple all that more ridiculous. Apple first sued, claiming the Galaxy Tab was a copy of its iPad. Samsung a day later sued, claiming patent violations.
Keeping lawyers busy
From what I can tell, both lawsuits are attempts by two market leaders to annoy each other. If Apple was serious in its claims, it would be out there suing, well, everyone, because all smartphones and tablets today look like Apple's iPhone and iPad. Samsung's counter-suit is just to let everyone know they're not backing down. It doesn't really matter if the claims are valid. It's just meant to rattle cages and keep the lawyers busy.
The entire issue is moot anyway. No one buys an iPad/iPhone or Galaxy Tab because of how they look — although consumers certainly don't buy something if it looks bad — they buy it because it performs well and has plenty of content. Apple's lead in content has resulted in a lead in sales. Approximately 60 per cent of tablet users are buying the iPad instead of the Galaxy.
While it all seems a little childish, it may all work out well for consumers. Apple has tipped its hat and acknowledged Samsung as a competitor in the tablet market, which means the company will be looking at every conceivable way to keep the market lead, including price. Samsung too will be turning on the juice, although lack of content — not technology — is a bigger issue at present.
It will also probably mean more petty annoyances and claims of privacy invasion. Both Apple and Google, who supplied the Android operating system for the Galaxy, raised privacy groups' ire over concerns that GPS data stored in the devices were being transmitted back to the company. How, or even if, each company is using this data is still being questioned, but odds are that both companies are looking for any additional insight into how their devices are used — whether the consumer is happy with that or not.
While I'm not really happy about privacy invasion, I'm willing to put up with a little. The last time I saw competition like this, meaning good for the consumer, was when Microsoft Windows and IBM's OS/2 were fighting it out, although back then I was more interested in my Bug.