So you may have heard that Apple and Samsung are suing each other. I hate when mommy and daddy fight.
In general, this lawsuit really irks me. Patents are outdated, both sides are being petty bullies, and customers are the ones who are going to suffer.
I was wishing it would all just go away when something really interesting happened: on August 6, a confidential email thread detailing a Samsung executive meeting in early 2010 was admitted into evidence. The email describes a tirade by J.K. Shin, Samsung’s president of mobile communications, about how much better the iPhone is than everything they make.
And what specifically did he say was the iPhone’s upper hand? Its UX.
I have confidence in our products’ H/W [hardware], in their exterior design, and in their quality. But when it comes to the ease of use of our UX, I lack such confidence.
Influential figures outside the company come across the iPhone, and they point out that “Samsung is dozing off.”
All this time we’ve been paying all our attention to Nokia, and concentrated our efforts on things like Folder, Bar, Slide, yet when our UX is compared to the unexpected competitor Apple’s iPhone, the difference is truly that of Heaven and Earth.
It’s a crisis of design.
He later goes on to say:
When everybody (both consumers and the industry) talk about UX, they weigh it against the iPhone. The iPhone has become the standard. That’s how things are already.
Do you know how difficult the Omnia is to use? When you compare the 2007 version of the iPhone with our current Omnia, can you honestly say the Omnia is better? If you compare the UX with the iPhone, it’s a difference between Heaven and Earth.
We are at a moment in history where the definition of “UX” is being explained to a federal jury. They’re being asked to judge the similarities in the experience design of two competing products. I think that’s pretty outstanding.
Had any of the 12 jurors previously heard the term? Did the lawyers or the the judge know what it means?
We can barely define it within our own community of practice. What definition did they get?
If they aren’t having an easy time understanding what UX is, this bit of the thread isn’t going to help:
As for UX, see to it that it is a UX that is easy to use regardless of age, occupation, and level of education, that it’s a UX that’s not like a UX, that, just like the flow of water, its alarm rings when you wake in the morning then out comes the news while you’re getting ready to leave for work, see to it that you’re able to come up with that kind of UX.
To this the Senior Vice President said, That’s what we’re doing, to which Head of Division said, “No, I’m not saying do that for everything; I’m saying I like it this way, but others may have UXs that they like based on their individuality So, we should be able to accommodate that. UX that’s not called UX and not like UX. I don’t mean UX needs to disappear; it’s something that is a matter of course, so even if we don’t call it UX, if we use it it’s as a matter of course.
But Shin is clear what UX means to him, and his frustration rises as he challenges his team to do better. This is my favorite part:
“For goodness sake let’s get things done while working within the realm of common sense. When it comes to UX, fix things that make sense first. I’ve always said this, haven’t I? A UX that can be used by anyone from six year olds to senior citizens. Ease of use is the answer.”
So tell me, if Samsung really understood UX, would they have copied the interaction design of a competitor with a different brand identity who serves a different target audience?
Designs can be stolen, but can experiences? Would anyone really argue that Samsung was able to recreate the iPhone experience on an Android?
These issues are at the core of our profession and bring into question the value we bring to the table. The verdict could change the shape of intellectual property for UX.
My judgment: our IP isn’t our ideas and it isn’t even our execution. It’s our process. And no one can take that away from you.
[Read the translated meeting notes in full] and share your thoughts in the comments!
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