Picsel sues Apple over iPhone Graphics Update

Another year, another lawsuit. I assume that Picsel’s lawsuit involves either this patent or this one. Here’s a list of Picsel’s issued patents in case you’re interested.

I’d never heard of Picsel before (their logo looks like something drawn by a bored intern using PowerPoint, so they’re clearly a company lacking in taste) but given their client list (most major consumer electronics companies and most major cellphone manufacturers) they’re obviously not simply patent trolls.

I am not a lawyer, let alone a patent lawyer, and I find the way patents describe processes to be amazingly annoying. The one thing you won’t find in a patent is a vaguely straightforward explanation of what the gizmo actually does. But you can piece it together…

As I read it, the first patent basically involves redrawing the screen using an approximation / cached tiles of the expected display and then replacing it with the actual pixels when they’re available (something pretty much every OS and many applications do to some extent, which seems to me to fall under the “bleeding obvious to anyone in the industry” category — unless Apple for some reason is using the very specific tiling technique described, which seems to me less obvious and less likely), while the latter looks like Picsel attempting to patent something vaguely reminiscent of Quartz Compositor (and hence falls under the “prior art” category since Apple has had Quartz Compositor since long before the patent was issued).

So, I’m guessing there’s at least some merit to the lawsuit and Apple will pay something in the tens or hundreds of millions. (After all, they settled with Burst for $10M and their case was a joke.)

MacBook “Helium”

Two rumors: Apple building a carbon fiber MacBook Air, and Apple building (or needing to build) a NetBook (i.e. an ultralight and ultracheap MacBook that is net-centric). Well, Apple isn’t going to sell a $400 notebook any time soon, but it might sell a $600-800 notebook similar to, but smaller than, the Air, and to keep costs down it might use plastics — I mean Carbon Fiber — and such a notebook would be smaller and lighter than the MacBook Air, so it might be called the “MacBook Helium”.

I’ll laugh out loud if I’m right. I was right about Apple releasing its NeXT-based OS as OS X way back when — I predicted they’d release a stopgap OS 9 which would make them a ton of money and keep people satisfied while they polished Rhapsody which they could then call OS X. Of course, I also wanted them to call the Mac “se/30” the Mac “sex” for similar reasons.

If Apple does release a $400 micro-notebook, I hope it’s basically a super iPhone and not a crippled Mac (or that it dissolves the distinction between the two).

OS X Everywhere

Here’s my contribution to rampant speculation on the “Product Transition I Can’t Get Into” referred to in Apple’s recent Earnings Call. Let’s see how good a pundit I am. Now, there are many things I’d like the transition to be but which are highly unlikely. I may publish the long-winded article I’ve written on the subject eventually, but I thought I’d keep this brief…

By November, every iPod — except possibly the Nano — will be an iPod Touch of some kind, running OS X. To achieve this, Apple will have to drop the basic iPod Touch price down to $149 or less. iPod Touches are kind of expensive to make, so this will hurt margins and cannibalize some higher margin products.

The upside: within 12-24 months, Apple will — arguably — have the dominant computing platform on the planet — the largest games platform except for the PS2, the largest mobile computing platform except for the OSes embedded in commodity cell phones, and the largest platform that, as a whole, can natively run apps compiled against a single OS toolbox API.

For bonus points, they can merge the AppleTV into the Mac Mini (and put AppleTV functionality into every Mac) or simply expose extra functionality in [new?] AppleTVs (such as the ability to run iPhone games apps).

Now, I’m not sure this is a Good Thing™. Apple has, historically, been a pretty arrogant company. (Look at its treatment of game developers from 1985-2000.) I’m not sure whether the world would be a better place with Apple in the driver’s seat, but this is, I think, the plan: OS X everywhere.

Post Script

Another rumor I’ve seen is that there’ll be a MacBook Touch which will presumably draw attention away from Apple’s very successful MacBook Air and also the MacBook Pro (especially if the MacBook Touch has good stylus support). A MacBook Touch would help dissolve the dividing line between Mac and iPhone applications (it’s easy to imagine that some apps will appear that are, essentially, identical on both platforms) and turn OS X into a more unified platform.