Jul 18 2013, 9:54am CDT | by Deidre Richardson
Apple is known for its multitude of patents that are filed every week. Regardless of the time or occasion, you can always count on Apple to work with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to protect its own intellectual property. The company even went to court against Samsung a year or so ago to ensure that its iPhone design and icon layout would be defended against what Apple believed to be “blatant plagiarism” on the part of its greatest, Android archrival.
The reason why Apple has become so patent-centric in recent days pertains to past experiences that Steve Jobs had with a company called “Creative.” When the first iPod emerged from under the Apple brand in 2001, Apple believed its product would be protected because it was the most unique MP3-like music player on the market.
What Apple and Steve Jobs did not expect, however, was to discover that the company would soon become part of a $100 million lawsuit. Apparently, Creative filed a patent for a similar device prior to Apple’s product creation; Creative later sued Apple and won its lawsuit without a fight. At that point, Steve Jobs decided to patent every single idea and thought he had as soon as possible. The result of this desire to protect its intellectual property explains why Apple, since Jobs’s death, has become such a patent-crazy company.
Along these lines, Apple was recently granted a patent with the Patent and Trademark Office that would create a projector iPhone of sorts. This patent pertains to the iconic iPhone we all know and love, but adds a projector for not only the iPhone, but also the iPad and MacBook. The result of this projector would be that one would not need a computer if he or she wanted to watch a movie with a class of students, a group of fellow colleagues, or even give some powerpoint presentations.
“In one embodiment, electronic devices each may include a projector that produces a projected display and a camera that detects gestures made with respect to the projected displays. The electronic devices may interpret gestures on the projected displays to identify image sharing commands for sharing images between the projected displays…within the shared workspace.”
To be brief, the patent calls for the projection of images on displays as well as the ability to share pictures between displays.
Cam Bunton of Today’s iPhone does not seem too excited about Apple’s latest idea, however. In his response to the patent, he says that the concept of a projector iPhone would 1) make the iPhone too big and 2) would be an added feature to the iPhone that consumers would hardly use:
“But given the choice, wouldn’t anyone rather use a large, widescreen HDTV than project a small, low quality image on to a wall? Secondly: Presuming it’s built into an iPhone, it’s going to make that phone so much thicker than is reasonably practicable. Not only does it need to have room enough for the projection lens and light source, but also, the extra battery power required to make it last long enough without dying. And what if the inevitable happens and the projection light starts to fade as all projectors do? Could Apple make it easy to replace? iPhones have never even allowed users to swap batteries out, let alone lights for pico projectors…you’re left with a feature that you barely use and a phone that’s so fat you’d rather leave it on your tablet at home than carry it around.”
Bunton makes some good observations, but there are some problems with his response. First, some individuals do not want to purchase HDTVs because they are not all that mobile. In fact, most individuals have regular televisions today and do not want to pay the price that an HDTV would require. This may vary depending on where you are, but most average consumers could care less about whether or not a television has HD resolution or not. They simply want a television that works and plays the television shows that matter to them.
Next, what about the battery? Bunton believes that Apple would have to create a larger battery to handle the power that the projector would zap from it. That’s true; at the same time, however, isn’t this the price we pay for innovation?
I imagine that, when smartphones were first created and sold, many individuals believed that Internet capabilities were more harmful to a smartphone than helpful; after all, wouldn’t they require the use of antivirus software, as opposed to feature phones, which, for the most part, didn’t have Internet? What would happen to your smartphone if it got infected with a virus? Wouldn’t feature phones be the better, safer phone of choice?
And what about the time when cameras were first added to smartphones? Do you not think that there were individuals who didn’t want them added because they believed their HD cameras that they wore around their necks (or kept in their pockets) were better than the capabilities of a smartphone camera?
This argument still prevails today among many, but Samsung responded to this by producing a 10X zoom Galaxy S4 Zoom – a smartphone with a camera that is comparable to many standalone cameras today on the market.
And what about the idea that the pico projector shouldn’t be implemented into the iPhone because consumers will not use it regularly? The same thing could be said for lots of features in the iPhone. Take the camera, for example: The camera is a nice feature to the iPhone, but many consumers only use it to take photos at family and special occasions.
Does this mean, then, that the camera should never have been added to the iPhone? What about the various settings within the iPhone software: should those have never been added because the majority of consumers don’t use them?
The moment you start to toss out an idea because “consumers don’t use it,” you start to toss innovation. Innovation does not work in the idea of “if they don’t use it, don’t implement it”; rather, innovation says, “implement it and they will use it.”
For Apple to implement pico projectors would provide business professionals and ordinary consumers the right to use the iPhone projector at their disposal. What’s wrong with increased customization and an enhanced iPhone experience?
To Apple, I would say this: implement it, and they [consumers] will use it. I can attest to this from personal experience: I never used cameras much until I purchased the iPhone 4S. Now, with my iPhone 5 camera, I snap photos all the time.
Deidre Richardson is a long-time Apple fan and reports passionate about the latest Apple news and rumors.
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