November 2011

Torments in the Mobile Phone World

Torments in the Mobile Phone World

What a month, never a day seems to go by without some major player suffering strife, at the moment the turf wars are between Apple, Google, Samsung, Oracle and Amazon. Given the size of these companies there are serious dollars at stake. We'll start with IPR issues and then have a look at malware where Android is attracting the attention of a different sort of follower.

It all started back in April when Apple accused Samsung of 'Slavishly' copying the iPhone (and iPad) even citing pictures of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S2 in their litigation papers,

You won't be surprised to hear that Samsung countersued Apple for patent infringement on Wideband CDMA and tethering mobile phones to PCs to use the phone's wireless data network. I haven't seen it yet but I wonder if RIM is worried about this or maybe they are busy with other problems.

What is particularly interesting to the patent lawyers at least is that Apple is citing the overall product design and the onscreen interface. This apparently infringes Apple's patents covering the pinching, zooming and scrolling inherent in the Apple products. Nobody seems to know just how far the courts will allow the protection of such design attributes. I think we are about to find out but don't hold your breath it will take many years to resolve. This is a game for big players only.

The bit that I really liked was Samsung's initial response to Apple's litigation where they cited the film '2001: A Space Odyssey' as prior art where the actors are seen viewing a TV broadcast using a 'personal tablet computer'. One of my favourite films of all time, much to my wife's annoyance I'll have to play it again and could perhaps be persuaded to skip a few hours just to find the evidence.

One of the things to note here is that Samsung actually has a higher market share of smart phones than Apple at 24% and 15% respectively.

Apple did manage to get a ban on sales of the Samsung tablet in Australia but that has recently been lifted. Samsung is currently trying to get the iPhone 4S banned in France and Italy and so the story goes on. Others are also involved so there is litigation by Apple against the Kindle 'Fire' tablet and another biggy is Oracle's litigation against Google over Java intellectual property right violations.

RIM is also having a bad time, well I think the problems just continue, apart from the data outages in October due to inadequate disaster recovery procedures which are reckoned to hit the balance sheet for $50 million they are badly overstocked on the PlayBook likely to cost the company $485 million in Q3. The company is trying to shift stock by selling the PlayBook at $199 down from the launch price of $300. Product analysis firm IHS-iSuppli has estimated that the Playbook costs $270 to make. The figures tell you all, RIM's share price is down to $17, a fall of 70% this year.

However the star of the show, Android from Google is not without its problems and it may actually yet have a large market effect. The problem is Malware and Android is picking up most of the smart phone problems in this area.

Juniper has stated that Android Malware has risen 472$ since July this year and is exponentially rising month on month. By comparison malware on the iPhone is negligible. The difference is that just about anybody can create applications for Android phones after paying your %25 entry fee and put them into the market place. People seem to be only too happy to download Angry Birds for free and ignore all the warnings that the Android OS gives you about what resources the app is going to use and then bingo, before you know it premium value SMS messages will be hitting your account.

Google of course can remove the app given the complaints )and do remove them* but somehow this doesn't seem to be the right way round. They could also instigate a different policy on controlling apps but that's sort of a contradiction on the open source OS approach. They have a problem and the mobile phone trusted execution environments are still very much a twinkle in the eye of the developers.

Apple by comparison is much more rigid in its developer registration process and then every app has to go through the Apple store before they can be downloaded onto the iPhone. They have some app validation process but they don't tell you what that does, sounds a bit like the Google page rank that took years for people to fathom out but it certainly made Google the search engine of preference. But it speaks for itself, everybody agrees that Malware on the iPhone is insignificant unless you by pass all the Apple controls by jail breaking your phone to run apps not accepted by Apple.

The thought I'd like to leave you with is this, who is responsible for malware on mobile phones, is it the OS provider, the network operator, the phone manufacturer or is just the good old user? Now if you Jail Break your phone are you responsible for the malware that may result?

Patsy Everett, Smartcard & Identity News


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