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Apple iPhone patent and how we understand it

Everyone's talking about the patent just granted to Apple for the iPhone.  The patent seems very broad, and many are talking about how broad the patent is and how it will effect others in the industry. The patent and analysis of the patent are definitely worth a read by anyone in the industry.

Regarding some of the conclusions that people are reaching, however, we want to point out that the iPhone ecosystem was very different when this patent was written.  The patent was filed at the end of 2007.  At the beginning of that year, Apple was not allowing any third party applications on the iPhone, because they were concerned about how they would impact device performance.  In the middle of that year Apple said that third-party applications for the iPhone would be browser-based.  This is the context in which the new patent was written.

So be careful analyzing this patent and drawing conclusions from it about what Apple has in mind. We analyze patents all the time, but they need to be truly understood in terms of technology involved and in terms of the context in which they were written.

This history is also important to remember because it gives us a sense of perspective.  It's easy to say nowadays that the most important aspect of smartphones are apps and app ecosystems.  I'm certainly not against them.  But what we see as important may change, and application ecosystems will likely be eclipsed by something else that comes along soon.  What that will be, now that's the question....

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