The Epic Technology battles of 2012
Indisputably 2012 will be remembered as a year of Titan technology battles of epic proportion which have swiftly shifted the world trends impacting the global markets and back home too Zimbabwe had its own.
Probably the biggest ever technological wrangle to be recorded was the Econet vs Netone row.
The yet to be resolved dispute emanated from interconnection fees where Econet said it had an agreement with NetOne for local traffic termination under which the operators would pay US7c per minute for calls going into each other’s network. But NetOne reportedly failed to remit accumulated monthly fees due to Econet.
The amount due and owing to Econet as at 31st July 2012 was US$20,412,109 excluding interests.
Econet in the statement announced “As a direct result of the repudiation, Econet regrets that it will have no choice but to terminate all interconnection services to NetOne under the repudiation agreement,” of which it then immediately disconnected.
The case was then referred to the high court where Econet sent some messages notifying its subscribers that, “Econet would like to advise its valued customers, that it has Unilaterally decided to temporarily extend Interconnection to NetOne until Monday 27 August when the High Court is expected to hear the matter relating to the interconnection. In the interim we wait for repayment proposals that NetOne has undertaken to make through its lawyers before the hearing.
On the morrow of the announced period, Econet terminated the interconnection again at 10AM with concerns that this may result in contempt of court of which Econet then rescinded later on.
Both parties’ lawyers, Mr Harrison Nkomo and Mr Collin Kuhuni representing Econet and NetOne respectively, confirmed the latest development. Mr Nkomo said Econet’s decision to restore services to NetOne was unilateral.
“Econet has taken a unilateral decision to reconnect NetOne considering both the negative impact on the subscribers and the unreasonable stance that NetOne took of disregarding the impact of the disconnection,” said Mr Nkomo. He said although they appeared before Justice Hlatshwayo, no order was made.
However, Mr Kuhuni said the legal wrangle is not over as the matter will be heard in court in due course.
Netone had highlighted that since the last interconnection agreement between them and Econet had expired back in 2006, they technically do not have an agreement to pay each other interconnection fees.
TelOne which he said despite being in the same predicament had approached Econet to come up with a payment plan
when Econet Wireless chief executive, Douglas Mboweni, appeared before a parliamentary committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology on ICT, he reportedly disclosed that Econet is $85 million by both NetOne and TelOne in interconnection fees meaning Telone even owed them larger sums.
In his brief explanation Mr Mboweni said “When it comes to interconnection, what normally happens is that when a call passes from for example from NetOne to Econet it passes through two networks it is generated in NetOne and then has to jump into an Econet structure, a standard practice that when it goes into our network we charge each other what we call an interconnection fee and that fee is seven cents,” the Econet boss said.
“What it presupposes is that when NetOne collect for example 18 cents or 20 cents for example from their subscriber, they have to pass seven cents to Econet and they remain with the difference, but what has been happening now is that they have been collecting the money and keeping the money to themselves.
“It means that they have collected the money from their subscribers and simply not passed on the money. We have told them it is better to pay up instead of having disruption in connectivity.”
Telone was said to have come forward with a payment plan towards their debt hence there was no noise over their issue.
Econet has recently announced that it now has 8million active users.
Telecel Zimbabwe had been facing ownership wrangles for the past 6 years, which once led to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) threatening to cancel the mobile operator’s licence, issues seemed settled on the last quarter of the year with their Shareholder Vimplecon indicating interests to sell stake.
The Bulawayo City Council is also voicing concern over the “Illegal Construction” of 14 Telecel base stations In Bulawayo
Telecel Zimbabwe has a current subscriber base of 2.5millio active users
Africom also had it battle to fight with its officials once publicising that “Africom wishes to advise all its stakeholders that Messrs Simbarashe Mangwende and Farai Rwodzi resigned from the Africom Holdings Board in December 2011. So it is naturally inappropriate to refer to them as “Africom Bosses”
The boardroom squabbles were later on understood to be swiftly resolved.
On the international scene, there were titan technological battles, with a stringent of lawsuits. The Apple vs Samsung can be dubbed the mother of all tech battles.
The patent disputes began when Samsung released its Galaxy smartphones in 2010. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs vowed before his death last year to wage “thermonuclear war” to prove that phones run on Google’s Android operating system copy the iPhone.
In August, Samsung was then slapped with a $1.05 billion jury verdict saying it violated Apple’s mobile patents. That verdict found Samsung violated six out of seven of Apple’s patents in question, three of which cover familiar touch functions made possible by Google’s Android software. In the wake of the ruling, Apple wasted no time in pinpointing eight Samsung phones it wanted banned that was not successful.
Among the featutures in dispute included Pinch to zoom: The iPhone was one of the first touchscreen gadgets to have the feature – but the USPTO has ruled Apple’s patent on the invention is invalid Samsung won a preliminary invalidation of Apple’s ‘rubber-banding’ patent in October that had the ‘bounce’ feature.The patent is for a feature which allows users with touchscreens to bounce back to the image on the screen if they attempt to scroll beyond the edge.
For instance, the jurors said Samsung owed Apple nearly $58 million for sales of its Prevail smartphone found to have used Apple’s “tap-and-zoom” technology. But the type of patent violation the jury, Koh said, musing that it appeared that Apple could recover perhaps only $8 million over the Prevail dispute.
Samsung and Google, respective smartphone and mobile operating system leaders, appear unscathed by patent-infringement lawsuits filed by Apple.
Technology reports averagely said, Samsung’s worldwide market share of mobile phones hit 22.9% in the third quarter, compared with 18.7% a year ago. Apple took 5.5% of the market, compared with 3.9% a year ago.
Samsung ranked No. 1 in smartphone market share during the last quarter of 2012, shipping more than 56.3 million of the devices, while Apple was second with 26.9 million smartphones, according to estimates by IDC. HTC, in contrast, was fifth, shipping 7.3 million phones.
In the mean time, Apple’s shares were reported to have taken a beating recently, with investors worried about rising competition from Samsung and other mobile device makers using Google Inc’s Android platform.
While Mr. Jobs appeared to be uncompromising in his views of Android before his death, Mr. Cook is viewed as more pragmatic about such matters. While he, too, has stressed his disapproval of rivals’ copying of Apple products, Mr. Cook has said publicly that he is not an enthusiastic combatant in the patent wars.
Samsung and Apple, the world’s two biggest smartphone makers, have each scored victories in their patent disputes fought over four continents since Apple accused Asia’s biggest electronics maker of “slavishly copying” its devices
Apple and HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone maker, announced they had agreed to dismiss a series of lawsuits filed against each other in a feud that started more than two years ago when Apple accused HTC of improperly copying theiPhone. The companies said their settlement includes a 10-year license agreement that grants rights to current and future patents held by both parties.
Apple sued Samsung in 2011.While another Android maker, Motorola Mobility, sued Apple in late 2010, and Apple subsequently countersued. Google now owns Motorola.
Worldwide sales of mobile phones declined from a year ago — as growth in smartphones failed to outstrip declines in basic, or “feature,” cellphones, those that typically lack apps or can accept third party apps..
Feature phone giant Nokia saw its share of the mobile phone market fall to 19.2%, from 23.9% a year ago.
Samsung also sued Apple in Korea over iOS notifications. Not much is known about what patents, if any, Apple has violated or what damages Samsung wants from Apple. Samsung has been trying to get Apple products banned in Europe This has angered the European Commission and as a result, Samsung may be fined up to 10% of its 2011 revenue said a report.
Samsung in its defence also argued it was deprived of a fair trial when jury foreman Velvin Hogan committed misconduct when he didn’t divulge he had been sued by his former employer, Seagate Technology, in 1993, of which Samsung is a large investor in Seagate.
Apparently Samsung lawyer Charles Verhoeven was right when he said that Apple was attempting to “compete through the courthouse instead of the marketplace.” He said Apple wants to tie up Samsung in courts around the world rather than competing with it head-on
Instagram which is now part of Facebook got slammed with a $15 billion class action suit from users who said that the social network was “improperly tracking the internet use of its members even after they logged out of their accounts.” They haven’t settled yet,said a source.
Google has dropped two patent lawsuits against Microsoft related to video compression technology in its Xbox 360 console.Reports suggest that Google was forced to withdraw its legal complaint due to a US Federal Trade Commission ruling that the web giant must license out essential, or FRAND patents, at a fair and reasonable price.
Google had previously demanded $4bn (£2.5bn) a year in royalties for the patents, while Microsoft argued they were worth only $1m (£623,000) per year due to the essential nature of the patents.The Oracle v. Google trial was not given too much scrutiny as the world`s attention was focused on other Google`s giant wars
Digitech Image Technologies was also reported to be sueing Apple using a patent it received from Polaroid, a patent that Polaroid successfully used against Kodak in 1986 over the instant camera. including Sony, Toshiba, Motorola, Asus Computer, and others.
MobileMedia, a software patent holding company, won a jury trial against Apple in Delaware over three patents relating to smartphones and other mobile computing devices.
WiLan, a patent licensing firm from Canada also sued Apple, HTC, and Sierra Wireless in a Florida court for patents related to LTE technologies.
China is also confirmed to have ordered Apple to pay $165,170 to eight writers and two companies to compensate them for allowing unofficial ebooks to be sold on Apple’s App Store in China.
Intel and AMD fought in court for more than a decade. While AMD generally won, Intel was never crippled and it’s arguable that their focus on each other helped hand the tablet and smartphone markets to Nvidia and Qualcomm.
When Nokia filed a lawsuit accusing Apple of infringing patents. “Nokia emerged as a clear winner from the fight, while Nokia had announced that it is commencing patent litigation against HTC,Research in Motion and Viewsonic in the US and Germany.
RIM agreed to re-license patents from Nokia, putting an end to several lawsuits between the two companies. With the patent dispute nastiness now in the rearview mirror, CEO Thorsten Heins and RIM can focus on their core business.
After all these scuffles I imagined if Henry Ford had patented the idea that his cars had four wheels and had held the position that other manufacturers blatantly copied him by making cars with four wheels. Granted, this example may be a little extreme, and there are many details and nuances involved in this ongoing dispute.
Will these legal battles have a long-term effect on progress and innovation? The precedent is now being set for what is legally defined as copying and what isn’t. If tech battles were kung-fu movies, Steve Jobs would be Jackie Chan.
These are called Pyrrhic victories, that is, victories that are more costly than defeat. They are fighting to death till one vendor quits the market and the other almost terminally crippled, its lose-lose situation.
The costs of such battles are unbearable and those involved would be far better off had they found a way to compromise without fighting to the death.
After all is said and done, unfortunately a wider truce in the patent battles engulfing the mobile industry is pragmatically way off from being over.