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Meet The Man Who Designed a Tablet Computer 15 Years Before the iPad 374

Posted by timothy
from the flat-and-functional dept.
Doofus writes "The Washington Post has a profile of Roger Fidler, who 'invented' the tablet computer in the 1990s, while working as a visionary for newspaper firm Knight-Ridder. He is now embroiled in the Apple/Samsung legal war, as an expert witness. Fidler admits that other prior art influenced him, such as the tablets being used as computing devices in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Prior prior art."
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Meet The Man Who Designed a Tablet Computer 15 Years Before the iPad

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  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by medcalf (68293) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:16PM (#39313939) Homepage
    Not sure why that was rated informative, when it completely misstates Apple's legal position. When Samsung's lawyers couldn't tell the devices apart in court, there's a problem of trade dress, which is basically the IP equivalent of fraud.
  • Re:GRiDPad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:21PM (#39313981)

    In the Ender's Game in 1985, every school child had their personal, networked tablet to make their home work on. Four years is enough to productizize a fantasy if the building blocks are there.

  • Re:iPad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WebCowboy (196209) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:26PM (#39314007)

    What does the iPad have to do with it? There were commercial, mass-produced, tablets way before the first iPad.

    The iPad has VERY MUCH to do with it. When the iPad was released, Mr. Fidler's concept was so similar to the new product that it moved people to recall his video from years ago. He wrote an essay on the topic when Apple was still pushing out Apple ][+ micros and took inspiration from a sci-fi movie from the 60s.

    But in particular the iPad has very much to do with Mr. Fidler because his work from all those years ago has been submitted as prior art by the combatants in the Apple-instigated patent war. Furthermore Fidler claims he approached a few tech companies after departing from Knight-Ridder in an effort to bring his ideas to fruition. One of those companies was Apple. Apple did not respond to his offers but could have sat on the idea for awhile. If there was evidence presented that Apple did indeed receive and retain Fidler's correspondence it would be very damaging to Apple's case.

    When Apple was just pushing its first Newton MessagePad, with its half-baked handwriting recognition, monochrome screen and stylus control Fidler's team at Knight-Ridder showcased a tablet that would be immediately familiar to us today. Fidler started writing about the concept ten years before that even. I think it is pretty obvious that as fantastic as the iPad is, that there is little to no validity at all in Apple's design patents filed many years later.

  • The 90s... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geogob (569250) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:29PM (#39314035)

    I find interesting that someone claims he invented the tablet computer in the 90s.

    Why do I find this interesting? I owned my first tablet computer in the 90s. Yep, that's right. Even funnier is that this tablet computer was from Apple computers - but this is completely irrelevant. Point is, development of tablet computers began much before the 90s in order to be released as commercial products in the 90s. And this guy predicted tablet computer around 1994... coincidentally the year when Apple Computer released its first tablet computer.

    The day it was released I both wanted one and was convinced it could have a great future. I imagine thousands of possible use for such tablet computers. But I didn't invent the iPad. Or the Samsung Galaxy. Or what ever.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Americano (920576) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @05:55PM (#39314211)

    What I'd like to know is how Samsung's lawyers could be unable to tell the difference [reuters.com] between an Apple and a Samsung product from ten feet away, yet you assume that the casual viewer will totally know the difference.

    If the only way you can tell between an "authentic" Louis Vuitton purse and a $10 streetcorner bargain made by "Louise Vitton" is through close inspection of the packaging, labels, and finish, then you have produced what is commonly known as a "knockoff." And that's precisely what Apple has alleged - that Samsung's new tablet "slavishly" copies their design so that only a close inspection will allow you to tell the two apart.

    Again, you can certainly argue whether or not design patents should be allowed, and you can certainly argue that Samsung's device is not "too similar" to Apple's, but let's at least get the substance of the allegations right. Apple is not saying that they "own roundrect tablets with a black front." They are alleging that the specific design of the specific tablets from Samsung violates Apple's design patents by copying a substantial portion of Apple's trade dress.

  • 1992 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pcjunky (517872) <walterp@cyberstreet.com> on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:01PM (#39314243) Homepage

    I worked on a project called the Telesignature back in 1992. We used a pen tablet computer from Grid as the signing device. Several other companies followed suite in 1993. There was a pen computing convention in Boston that year. The only difference between these and tablets today was the pen. They looked and acted almost identical.

  • Re:Star Trek? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kreigaffe (765218) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:02PM (#39314253)

    Yes, and every ST since.
    Here's a nice screen grab from '98.

    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/File:Sarah_Sisko_reconstruction.jpg [memory-alpha.org]

    I dunno, that looks EXACTLY like an iPad to me.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomhath (637240) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:06PM (#39314269)
    I could probably make one out of plexiglass and plywood that could fool them from ten feet away. It's a shiny black rectangle with rounded corners.
  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MisterMidi (1119653) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:13PM (#39314315) Homepage
    Nice hyperbole, from one to all Samsung lawyers. Just one couldn't tell the difference, another could. From your own link:

    At one point during the hearing, she held one black glass tablet in each hand above her head, and asked Sullivan if she could identify which company produced which. "Not at this distance your honor," said Sullivan, who stood at a podium roughly ten feet away. "Can any of Samsung's lawyers tell me which one is Samsung and which one is Apple?" Koh asked. A moment later, one of the lawyers supplied the right answer.

  • Re:iPad (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2012 @06:14PM (#39314319)

    Like the summary said. 2001: A Space Oddessy beat them both by about 40 years.

    Not the movie. http://obamapacman.com/2011/08/debunked-samsung-2001-space-odyssey-as-ipad-prior-art-analysis/ [obamapacman.com]

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pieroxy (222434) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:20PM (#39314701) Homepage

    You do sound angry and really have little clue.

    Both black, flat, rounded-rectangles with a touchscreen that covers substantially the whole front of the device. Where's the novelty in Apple's design then

    In the rest of the patent claims?

    This is how all patent trolls work.

    You have no clue what patent trolls are. Patent trolls *do not* implements their own patents. They sue to make money, no to protect their IP (however ridiculous the IP).

    It is more about legal strategy than anything else.

    No it's not. They sued Sammy because Sammy if *dumb fuck stupid* enough to dive in and make devices that actually infringe patents that *Steve Jobs* himself swore he would protect right on the 2007 keynote stage while announcing the first iPhone. "And boy, have we patented it." were his own words. Seriously, he said that on stage to the whole world.

    And only one company is stupid enough to design a device that *is* just a copycat in enough ways to actually infringe on one of those patents.

    there isn't a case for Apple here

    Apparently, at least one german judge disagreed with you. So clearly you have no clue of how the German legal system work. A German judge *is* at a better place than you to assert such a statement, and he did.

    Does Apple plays a smart game here? All bets are off. But they were very straightforward about their strategy, publicly, a long time ago.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ouchie (1386333) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @07:47PM (#39314881)

    They are suing Samsung because they think or thought they could win. Generally in cases like this the company sues someone they think they can win and then use that case to set a legal precedent. They then take that precedent and threaten other companies with it. It has nothing to do with believing in the next guy and only protecting their patents. Its all about protecting their monopoly and profits.

    I am not certain Apple really thinks that they can win. There is a secondary effect of the law suits and it is tied to Apple's marketing. They sue the competition for copying, even though they know they can't win. They drag the issue out through the Media and pair the media attention to their law suit to advertising of how the iPad is a superior product to the competition. It is a secondary way of drawing attention to the product, and I would say it is working.

    Pair this subliminal marketing with their ability to lock in manufacturing and supply chain to keep costs down and Apple can happily make a 50% profit margin on the iPad. This ties into how Apple markets their other computers, no other computer is an Apple that is why you will gladly pay a 25-40% premium for an Mac. The Mac has been around for over 20 years and has always touted itself as better than a PC. It is harder to do the same thing with a new product and hence the dynamic ways of marketing the iPad's superiority.

  • Re:iPad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:04PM (#39315017)

    Like the summary said. 2001: A Space Oddessy beat them both by about 40 years. Apple's "design patent" is even mor e absurd than their other patents and a lot of those are total rubbish to begin with.

    Actually, no. One judge did actually look at footage from 2001: and said that it was impossible to see any details, so it is impossible to say whether the screen showed in the movie matches Apple's design patent in any way.

    And it seems that you don't have a clue what a design patent means. You design a product, then you make drawings that describe as precisely as possible what the product looks like, and then you get a design patent. It doesn't have to be innovative whatsoever. It just has to be a design that wasn't there before, quite possibly by putting together a dozen different design decisions that have all been made before, just not in that particular combination.

    To infringe on a design patent, you have to copy all the design decisions. Not just "rectangle with rounded corners" but all the other things in the design patent as well. That's why Apple is suing nobody but Samsung for copying their design, because everybody else of any importance has designed tablets that look different. Including lots of tablets with rounded corners that look different from the iPad by making substantially different design decisions somewhere.

  • Re:iPad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alienzed (732782) on Saturday March 10, 2012 @08:06PM (#39315041) Homepage
    I have to disagree, Samsung really did make their product look identical to Apple's, whether it was on purpose or not. http://dailymobile.se/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/ipad-2-vs-samsung-galaxy-tab-10.1.jpg [dailymobile.se] Without the home button and the slightly different shape, they look exactly the same. Apple asserts that this fact may confuse customers. And don't forget that a LOT of shops selling non iPad tablets will still put that typical iPad home screen screenshot on it. Remember the ordeal where a Samsung display had all the core Apple apps up on the wall? Do I agree with patents like this? No. But if they exist and they should be enforceable, I think Apple has a case.

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