Fun Friday – Apple Phone Home, Supremes on Science

Apple, the Benetton of compsys, is poised to announce their own blackberry ripoff for the stylish crowd, as Michael Kanellos notes. Now, I know a lot of people who live by their blackberries, but I guess they’re not the glitterati – just the people who, like, invented networking, or designed the chips used in these devices – so I guess they don’t count. Anyway, after settling that unsettling patent conflict, RIM I suspect isn’t worried…

Kanellos is correct in his evaluation of Apple’s competitors in this market – all established, ruthless, and adaptable – and that experience in building this product matters. Actually, experience building any product matters, but Apple has often gotten away with slipshod manufacturing glitches that corporate and international customers would never tolerate. Service also matters in the cellphone biz – reliability, coverage – you don’t want to be lost in the woods without a signal as some CNET editors have recently discovered. Finally, making a fancy video phone work well is a lot more than just hardware – just walk into any cellphone store and make a salesman take and send a video clip from one of their fancy video cellphones – you’re likely to find they don’t know how. All in all, Apple had better deliver well here – but I wouldn’t want to bet my life on it.

Cornelia Dean in the NYTimes wrote an interesting piece on the conflict between scientific method and legal reasoning that is worthwhile reading for technologists. In a revealing moment during the current case before the Supreme Court on regulation of carbon dioxide to control greenhouse gases inducing global warming, Justice Scalia was quoted as saying “Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist”.

Lest people think this is a recent problem, a patent attorney who argued before the Supreme Court many years ago told me that during one case involving computer methods and software one of the “lesser lights”, in a recap over the algorithms used, moaned to another justice “We’re not going to hear about logarithms again, are we?”