Apple vs. Samsung with a side of Sony: Vertical integration wars

Apple vs. Samsung with a side of Sony: Vertical integration wars

Summary: The Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit documents have a lot of Sony Style references. Why? Apple, Samsung and Sony are all chasing the same vertical integration strategy.


If there's any question what Apple has become look no farther than the never-ending patent and copyright bickering with Samsung to give you an answer. Apple used to be compared to PC makers and Microsoft. The reality is Apple's vertically integrated model is much more Samsung and Sony these days.

The documents being volleyed between Samsung and Apple ahead of a courtroom showdown in the Northern District Court of California this week reveal little agreement. Apple claims Samsung has ripped off its technology. Samsung has a similar counter claim. Meanwhile, Samsung says that Apple was ripping off Sony's style anyway. A judge shot down most of Samsung's Sony Style emulation argument.

The stakes are obviously high. Apple wants to nail Samsung and stop its products at the border. Samsung wants to sell its wares. In the middle of this mess sits Google, which has the Android operating system that Apple really wants to derail.

While the judge won't allow Samsung's Sony argument, the similarities between Samsung, Sony and Apple are everywhere.

  • Each company integrates products via multiple angles and components (many of which are controlled by them).
  • Samsung and Apple have their own chips.
  • Screens are increasingly in the mix.
  • Sony plays the content integration game. So does Apple. Samsung to some degree.
  • All three players want customer experiences that delight. Apple has been most successful.
  • All three players have supply chain clout.

These similarities will become increasingly apparent when Apple rolls out its own television set. Then the competition with Samsung and Sony will really pick up.


The reality here is obvious. Of course, Apple looked at Sony products. A transcript of a video deposition with Apple's Richard Howarth makes the Sony case. Samsung wanted to point out that Apple designer Shin Nishibori mocked up a Sony-inspired iPhone. So? Of course, Nishibori would have had some Sony comparison. Sony history is worth exploring and thinking about. Samsung obviously checked out Apple products and vice versa. The nuance here is judging when looking at rival products and emulating them goes too far.

And that's where it gets very messy. This trial between Apple and Samsung will have a bevy of moving parts, but the big picture is that the two companies are battling for vertically integrated consumer electronics dominance. Smartphones, tablets and operating systems today. Tomorrow it'll be TVs and living room hubs.

Here's a look at some of the more interesting docs. 


Sony Style 072912


Apple Object 072912

Topics: Tablets, Apple, iPhone, Legal, Smartphones

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  • This is going to be interesting

    Between the Judge, the lawyers, and witnesses, I wonder how confused the jury will end up being?
    • We really need edit....

      My single biggest concern is that it will be judged literally on the patents with little to no consideration on whether the patent is legitimate or not. Will any consideration be given to findings in courts from other countries or US venues?
      • Patents will rule..

        except if either side tries to buffalo the jury by underestimating their ability to judge FUD (see Oracle/Google). OTOH, it takes a smart, strong judge to resist the crap. From Oracle/Google it took a judge with a math degree who could program in java. Have no idea about this judge. Hope she is up to it.
        • She is NOT up to it!

          Just by reading some of her ruling, I can tell you she is not.

          She has deny Samsung's every request:

          1.Will not force the iphone designer to take stand.
          2.Will not bring in prove where iphone got it design idea.

          Has anyone ever heard of a witness refuse to show up on a subpoena?.
          Marty Kaan
          • Exceptionally qualified in the eyes of the Ninth Circuit

            Translation: No matter what the actual facts are, Samsung will be doomed on appeals as well.
            Tired Tech
          • Just google the Sony Clie. Exactly the same form factor

            If you ever had a Clie you would know that it had the same form factor and worked with apps (yes, you can check it out). The Clie was not a phone... but Sony was working on moving to this domain. In fact, the first smartphone was a Palm
  • I cannot believe this company!

    They go after people for stealing their stolen designs! And this Judge lets them get away with it!
    • this is how it works

      no one can fix this.
  • Samsung is looking desperate again.

    Samsung -- "See! see!, we have proof that Apple (like us) was also copying another company's designs".

    But that Sony-style phone everyone is talking about was an internal joke on what a Sony-style smart phone would looked like. The iPhone was designed months earlier.

    "According to the documents, Shin Nishibori's Sony-style touches were simply "an 'enjoyable' side project," embellishments on a concept Apple had already designed."
    • Really?

      So why does the Sony and Jony mockup look more like the iPhone 4/4S than the original iPhone?
      • Who cares?

        It is a small rectangle box with rounded edges.
        • A Small Rectangle Box wit Rounded Edges

          You nailed it.
      • The Sony and Jony mockup was concept designed by Apple.

        In other words, not a real Sony product that was shipping. Design concepts created by Apple internally, not Sony. So if this design concept end up looking like the iPhone 4, then its to Apple's credit. They did not steal another company's shipping designs.

        And like I said, Apple already proved that the design came from their "purple" prototype which dates back to August 2005 — months before the Jony prototype was originally designed. The judge has denied Samsung from presenting this into trial. Wonder why?
  • Apple opened Pandora's box when Jobs decided to go down this road.

    But Apple has done exactly what they accuse of Samsung doing. And I'm not talking abou the Sony mockup. I'm referring to the time when Jobs got a look at the revolutionary windows desktop user interface for computers at Xerox Parc. Before that "tour" Apple's computer design was headed in a very different direction. Jobs basically scrapped their in-house design and went in a completely different direction as a result of the Xerox Parc "tour". In fact, months later he hired away a number of engineers from Xerox Parc. The rest is history.

    I wonder what would have happened if Xerox Parc would have been as vehement in defending it's technology breakthroughs and designs as Apple? Apple is just a hypocrite. And Jobs is the biggest hypocrite of all when he said that he would use every last cent to destroy Android/Google because they were just ripping off iOS. He was a vile person.
    • But according to some...

      Doing something like that is perfectly fine, as long as it's got the Apple logo on it. Supposedly, according to Xerox/Apple lore, Apple offered Xerox something like 100 million worth of Apple pre-ipo shares for Xerox to "open up the kimono" (as quoted per Jobs) and let them visit.

      Funny how (just like you said) they (Apple) decided to go in an entirely different route with their GUI.
    • Well said..

      Everyone seems to forget that apple stole the whole idea for a GUI. Didn't you guys watch "Pirates of Silicon Valley?"
    • Do you have a mind of your own?

      Or is it controlled by Microsoft?

      Apple PAID Xerox/Parc for the concept. Something Microsoft did not do. Microsoft HAD to invest a measly 150M in Apple to make the lawsuit go away (i.e. settlement).

      Microsoft is the real thief. And they pay for phoney 'grass roots' supporters and for real blogs, reports and other folks to support them in the press and elsewhere.
      • Microsoft?

        That's strange, though this discusion was about iApple and Samsung with Sony on the fringe. ;-)
    • It seems that Xerox did try and defend its tech...

      But the judge threw it out. Not clear why, as I've found little explaining the decision, but I suspect it had something to do with the pre-IPO investment that Apple allowed Xerox to make in exchange for giving Apple access to PARC, as vinny mentions below.

      It's also important to note that Xerox/PARC eggheads even warned Xerox leadership that they were about to give away the farm by showcasing their stuff to Apple, but Xerox leadership on the east coast didn't place much value on the work that PARC was doing, having the mentality that if it wasn't copiers, they weren't interested. Interesting the eggheads use the words "giving" it away instead of viewing it as "stealing".
      • SoL

        Statute of limitations ran out on Xerox.