apple

Nokia lobs patent grenade at Apple

This could turn out to be nothing more than some hot air in a court room or something that drags on for years with no real affect on the overall smartphone industry.

“The largest handset maker in the world is suing the maker of one of the most popular, the iPhone, because, according to a statement released by Nokia on Thursday, Apple has refused to license any of the patents in question. All iPhone models dating back to the original introduced in 2007 are infringing, according to Nokia. Nokia is asking the U.S. District Court in Delaware for an injunction (PDF) on sales of iPhones and for unspecified damages. “

Source: CNET News

10 patents. Thats a lot of alleged infringin’ goin’ on.

 

The Candy Apple Conundrum

I have an IPhone. This is arguably the best phone and mobile device I have ever had my grubby little hands on. Period. No competition. I also have a Macbook Pro. Very nice, expensive, and easy to figure out after a day or two. Nothing special, I’m still more comfortable with the Windows environment.

To be honest, I can’t stand Apple. I hate those self-important narcissistic condescending Mac ads. Really. I want to destroy entire apple orchards because of it.

I do appreciate Apple’s brilliance and unending innovation in terms of user interface and experience, as well as packaging, marketing, and building a rabidly loyal fanbase (don’t bother flaming me again guys, you are wasting your time).

At first glance, the IPhone seems like a super shiny object that does all sorts of wonderful things, and there are loads and loads of interesting applications and content. Yay. The market itself is rapidly growing, the users are the “sweet spot” of users and early adopters, and the app store is a perfectly executed distribution method. Love it. You could even argue that the IPhone has been instrumental (without realizing it) in helping spur interest and momentum in the augmented reality sector.

But I am continually perplexed by Apple’s refusal to open up the undocumented APIs in their SDK to allow augmented reality researchers and developers access to the video stream from the camera. This is a critical element for any type of visual tracking (markers, feature tracking, and markerless tracking). Some people figured some work arounds to make it work with the 2.x version of the SDK which is nice, except that this automatically disqualifies any applications from distribution in the app store. What really kills me though, is that on one hand, Apple made a play for welcoming AR applications with the 3.x version of the SDK, but only provided access to the overlay, while at the same time completely changing where the undocumented API calls were located, further obfuscating things and handicapping all R&D.

Making things worse, and I’ve blogged about this before, is that there is a perception that the IPhone is the only platform worth pursuing for AR. If you aren’t developing for the IPhone, investors, venture capitalists, and the media don’t care and start slamming doors. The reality of the world market is that the IPhone is only a fraction of the entire market share. From a business perspective, development for the IPhone should be a secondary or tertiary effort, with focus on others like Android, Symbian, and WinMobile. Even the IPhone hardware is lacking in features like video in (necessary for external cameras, likely mounted to the frame of glasses or wearable displays), and others.

Nearly everyone I spoke to at ISMAR echoed my sentiments here. We all *want* to develop for the IPhone, and need to if we want to build a business, but we are being forced to consider alternatives. This is unacceptable. Next-generation mobile augmented reality has the potential to DRIVE SALES OF IPHONES, but as long as Apple is blocking work here, there is a huge opportunity for competitors to jump into the fray and court the developer community. If this keeps up, the IPhone will remain as the coolest phone on the block, but someone else will have the ultimate mobile AR platform.

Think about it Apple! Let’s work something out, and soon, so we can get back to the task of advancing the technology and creating some mind-blowing applications.

Call me, mmmkay? I want my candied apple.

Robert

Bad Apple May Sour Early Augmented Reality...

Earlier this year, a group of developers, startups, academics, and others published an open letter to Apple about opening up the IPhone SDK and releasing public APIs to access the live video stream from the camera to enable augmented reality applications. Ironically, Apple filed for a patent the next day for mobile augmented reality which is rather broad and all-encompassing. Apple later announced that it would indeed release new functions in the next version of the SDK, which spurred a flurry of press excitement about hordes of new AR applications that would suddenly appear in September.

The reality though, was that while some functionality was opened, which has made it easy to create “distance” or “directory” AR applications (requiring GPS, accelerometer, compass, and a screen overlay), it did not address the needs outlined in the open letter. Rather, it ignored them completely.

Augmented reality applications that require live video from the camera, like marker based AR that was popular through the first half of 2009 (and still a very viable method), as well as most of the super cool conceptual videos and demos out there (head over to Games Alfresco for examples), are completely locked out. Not only would these applications be immediately banned and not approved for distribution in the app store, the functions and APIs necessary to access the camera are hidden, undocumented, private, and a real pain in the ass to try to work around…even if just to create a working proof of concept for one developer in a garage somewhere.

If this was a matter on the global scale, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The IPhone has barely made a dent in the worldwide market. However, because it is a media darling here in North America, ensorcelling venture capitalists, and resonating amongst the faithful Apple drones, it is nearly impossible for a young augmented reality developer or small startup to get any significant traction trying to raise funds if they are not focusing on the IPhone. This is causing a problem.

Not only has Apple become the very thing they railed against in 1984…a controlling and domineering “big brother” who will not tolerate dissent, true creativity, or openness, but they have a constricting snake’s chokehold on the market. Not only do the execs live in an Ivory Tower, but they are forcing the rest of us to do the same, surrounded by very high walled gardens and orchards with the prettiest apples you have ever seen. However, we are forbidden from tasting that fruit, or making apple pie, or even trying to make some apple cider. If we get too close, the snakes appear with all of their rules and requirements, effectively trapping us. And then we notice how shiny the apples are again, and forget what we were complaining about.

One of two things needs to happen. Either Apple needs to quit screwing us around and make the APIs public so we can get back to the business of innovating and building a new industry, or the respective communities of developers and venture capitalists need to abandon Apple entirely. There are good alternatives out there that may not be as shiny, but are certainly as powerful and definitely more open for us to work with.

I hate to say it, but the only reason my team is bothering to waste time with the IPhone right now is because that is what people think is the validating platform for the whole AR industry. We would be much farther along and creating some mind-blowing AR if we weren’t fending off sour apples, bad worms, and rotten smiles.

You know, there is an opportunity here for someone to create a better hardware platform and completely leapfrog Apple. Mobile AR has a lot of potential and while the IPhone is shiny now, it is certainly not the ultimate mobile device, it is a shadow of what is to come. If Apple stays dominant and keeps things closed, all the cool stuff will be delayed…maybe for years. But if they open things up, or someone puts out a more robust hardware platform (that is competitive on the sexy level) and combines that with something more open and developer friendly, then you will see the industry catch on fire, accelerate, and create some wild experiences and applications. The future doesn’t need to be science fiction any more.

Android is a good candidate here to take the lead and cut Apple off at the knees, but I also wonder what the hell Nokia is doing right now. Their conceptual AR videos are kinda cool, but not always well received? Personally, I think Nokia could be a dark horse that comes out of the gate with something unexpected (they certainly have a large warchest of cash to work with) but they may be hampered by their own internal culture and politics to do something radical (and risky) to knock Apple off the cart.

I dunno. Something needs to change. As consumers we are being cheated out of really cool stuff that many of us want. As developers we are being denied the chance to be creative and innovate in a market that is sadly lacking in fresh ideas. I don’t want more widgets or beer farting apps…I want the next evolution of mobile, media, and ubiquitous computing. And that my friends, is Augmented Reality.

So, in summary, as long as Apple remains greedy and closed off, and the media/money sources out there only have eyes for the IPhone market, innovation and advancement in commercial Augmented Reality will be slowed, handicapped, and stilted as it is forced to restrict itself to the common elements of GPS, compass, and accelerometer.

This isn’t good enough. Open up the SDK Apple.