MacOS KenDensed: The Apple, Moto & Samsung Love-fest

Back from his subcontinent tour, it's Ken Ray!Apple likes EPEAT again, Motorola’s Xoom won a small victory in Germany, analysts are all hot and bothered over the iPhone, a U.K. Judge wants Apple to give Samsung some promotional love, and the media wants to rename your smartphone. Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray takes on all of those topics and Rob Enderle, too.

Apple to EPEAT: Let’s Kiss & Make Up
Apple is giving EPEAT a bit of a repeat. In one of the company’s fastest reversals in recent memory, Apple has returned all eligible products to the EPEAT environmental certification program.

In a letter posted in the “environment” section of the company’s website, departing Senior VP of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield said, “We’ve recently heard from many loyal Apple customers who were disappointed to learn that we had removed our products from the EPEAT rating system. I recognize that this was a mistake. Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.”

And then they put one in that seems to not be a qualifying product, that being the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. And they gave it a gold star to boot.

Mansfield spends the bulk of the letter talking up Apple’s commitment to the environment, pointing out — as the company did when it pulled out of EPEAT — that Apple’s green bona fides are strongest in areas EPEAT hasn’t even gotten to tracking yet. Still, he says the relationship between Apple and EPEAT is stronger thanks to the short break up, and that the company looks forward to with the organization as their rating system and tracking metrics evolve.

Apple’s decision to award the MacBook Pro with Retina Display an EPEAT “Gold” status seems to have launched a whole big EPEAT investigation. Not officially, but it sure seems to have done that, and now Computerworld has EPEAT saying it’s gonna need to give the whole ultra-thin laptop category a good going over.

Talking about Apple’s disappearing/reappearing EPEAT status and the press that generated, EPEAT Director of Outreach and Communications Sarah O’Brien says, “A lot of good questions have been raised … As a result, we’ve launched surveillance of the whole group of ultra-light laptops.” This, she says, is meant to check the whole category and is not aimed at any specific product or company.

EPEAT expects its review of the category to be complete in three to four weeks.

Motorola’s Big Xoom Win
Apple appears to have lost a long-running case against Motorola in Germany. The Mac Observer says a German court has ruled that the Motorola Xoom tablet does not infringe on design-related patents Apple holds for the iPad.

Certainly a win for Moto, but not as big a win as they company was seeking. Not only was the company looking to defend the Xoom, it also wanted to court to declare the Apple patents in question invalid, something the court declined to do.

Apple is required to pay two thirds of the court costs generated by the case, with Moto picking up the other third.

And that is that done. But with so many courts and so many cases, it’s hard to imagine any of it will ever actually be done. “Despite Motorola’s partial win,” says the piece, “the legal battle between the two companies in Germany isn’t over. Apple’s case in Mannheim (birthplace of the steamroller) accusing Motorola of infringing on its multi-touch patents is still underway.”

So there’s that. And if they lose that, but still want to take down the Xoom — which seems impossible since the Xoom could hardly be described as up — they appear to have new ammo to do it. A Wired piece says Apple, yesterday, was granted a patent entitled, “Portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents,” for which the company applied in 2007.

“It may sound snoozy,” says the piece, “but the patent — which covers graphical user interfaces ranging from email to Camera Roll to menu lists to the multi-touch interface in general — looks like a dangerous weapon for Apple as it battles Android handset makers.”

Try to get your head around that. Today, five years into the iPhone, long may it wave, the idea of “almost all touchscreen and almost no buttons” seems like a no-brainer. But in 2007, when Apple was applying for this patent, just about everyone else in the industry thought buttons were better and kept adding more to their devices to make them more better.

Rob Enderle actually said he thought Apple was opening itself to a world of litigation because teens tended to text while driving, but they wouldn’t be able to do that well on a phone without buttons so they would take their eyes off the road and crash and Apple would be sued for making a phone without buttons.

Now everybody else might be sued for making phones and tablets without buttons. You know, it still amazes me that Enderle said that, so much so that I had to take a couple of minutes to make sure I’d not made that up or misremembered it.

I had not and I did not.

This is from an ABC News piece published June 21st, 2007: “A lot of kids are going to get this phone. Kids do a lot of [‘blind’] texting on their phones” without looking at the screen, sometimes while they’re driving, Enderle said. “With a touch screen phone, you have to look at the screen.”

Enderle believes it’s possible that teenagers could get into accidents while using the phone and, rightly or wrongly, many parents could end up blaming the manufacturer. “One of these children is going to end up in someone’s trunk,” he said. “Often it’s the vendor that’s held accountable.”

Remember that, please, the next time Enderle says anything besides, “Hello.” And you may want to double check “Hello.”

Analyst’s iPhone Guessing Game
Gene Munster has an idea for investors: buy Apple shares ahead of this week’s third-quarter earnings call. Of course, he has an “Overweight” rating on Apple shares, so I guess that’s kind of what you’d expect him to say.

AppleInsider runs down Uncle Gene’s latest note to clients, wherein he says “We believe investors should own AAPL going into the June quarter earnings as we expect the company to report iPhone units better than low expectations of the buy side.”

A number of analysts are freaked out about iPhone sales for the recently ended June quarter, assuming that people are either waiting for the next iPhone or buying something else. This doesn’t concern Munster, right now. He’s expecting iPhone sales of between 28-million and 29-million units, which is considerably higher than the 25-million to 27-million expected by his peers.

Now this quarter’s iPhone sales are likely to be weaker, as we draw closer to whatever’s going to replace the current iPhone, when sales are supposed to go nutty again. It’s not as if we don’t know a new iPhone is coming, but seeing signs of it is still exciting.

The Financial Times has heard word that European wireless carriers are buying up boatloads of nano-SIM cards ahead of the launch of Apple’s next phone. Of course, rumor of the nano-SIM stockpiling is not a guarantee of a new iPhone, but add it to the countless iPhone rumors and the fact that we know without actually knowing that Apple will release a new iPhone relatively soon, and the nano-SIM talk becomes expected and exciting.

Back now to Mr. Munster, who’s calling for iPad sales of 16-million units for the June quarter, though he doesn’t seem set on that number, noting the newness of the tablet market and Apple’s decided dominance of it.

While he says the iPad is hard to estimate, the Mac looks fairly confusing from outside as well.

A separate AppleInsider piece has Munster at odds with the market trackers at NPD Group. They say sales of the Mac ended down 10-percent from the same quarter in 2011, though Mr. Munster says he’s expecting year-over-year Mac growth of 5-percent for the quarter.

In fairness to NPD, the firm does says that the June refresh of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines could lead to a surprise upside.

Munster still has a price target on Apple shares of $910. We’ll find out how he did and how Apple did next Tuesday, July 24th when the company reports third quarter earnings for fiscal year 2012. the New Samsung Website
The fights between Apple and Samsung just never stop being weird.

Earlier this month, a judge in the U.K ruled that Samsung did not copy the look and feel of the iPad in making the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, because it just wasn’t cool enough to have done so. The Galaxy Tab, that is, not Samsung.

Now that same judge says Apple has to let everyone know about the ruling. Seriously.

Bloomberg has Judge Colin Birss ruling yesterday that Apple has to publish a notice saying that Samsung did not copy the design of the iPad. This notice is to run on Apple’s U.K. homepage for six months and be published in several U.K. newspapers and magazines, presumably for less than six months. This, the piece says, is meant to “correct any impression the South Korea-based company was copying Apple’s product.”

I have to say I really don’t get it. According to the judge, the Galaxy Tab is not as cool as the iPad, thus Samsung must not have copied Apple. But, if he thinks so, wouldn’t he assume that other people would think so too, negating the need for Apple’s public Samsung statements?

Maybe the concern is that people have heard Apple say Samsung copied the look and feel of the iPad in designing the Galaxy Tab 10.1. But if they follow that kind of news, they likely heard that Judge Birss deemed the Samsung tablet too uncool to have copied the iPad, and wouldn’t that negate the need for Apple’s public Samsung statements?

In the meantime, Apple can go on saying Samsung copied the look and feel of the iPad if it wants to. According to Bloomberg, Judge Birss “declined (Wednesday) to grant Samsung’s bid for an injunction blocking Apple from making public statements that the Galaxy infringed its design rights,” saying, “They are entitled to their opinion.”

They’re, apparently, just required to say it’s not the opinion of Judge Birss.

Apple has said it will appeal the judge’s initial ruling; the part saying that Samsung didn’t copy the iPad, though probably not the part saying that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is uncool. No word whether they can leave off promoting Samsung pending the appeal.

Can You Track Me Now?
Finally this week, there’s a serious and scary piece from the New York Times that argues that we shouldn’t even call smartphones “smartphones” anymore, because that’s not what they are. Sure they’ll make phone calls, but at their heart they are trackers. And that’s what the opinion piece says they should be called.

This includes everything from the information we tell our devices to track — such as how to get from point A to point B, and where we’re supposed to be and when — to things of which we’re not aware, like the over 1.3 million times last year that wireless carriers handed over cellphone info to law enforcement agencies, in some cases simply because they asked for it. No warrant or anything.

Paul Ohm, a law professor at the University of Colorado, says

Every year, private companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store and share the words, movements and even the thoughts of their customers … These invasive services have proved irresistible to consumers, and millions now own sophisticated tracking devices (smartphones) studded with sensors and always connected to the Internet.

The piece goes on in that vein for a while, citing other pros and cons and looking at possible solutions, ranging from using burners to leaving the devices at home to removing their batteries when they’re not in use. And how many smartphones today have removable batteries?

The most important thing, in the estimation of the authors, is for people to really understand what they’re toting.

Quoting the end of the piece, “People could call them trackers. It’s a neutral term, because it covers positive activities — monitoring appointments, bank balances, friends — and problematic ones, like the government and advertisers watching us. We can love or hate these devices — or love and hate them — but it would make sense to call them what they are so we can fully understand what they do.”