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Why Apple Denied the Google Latitude App 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-a-coincidence dept.
awyeah writes "A recently revealed Apple patent looks remarkably similar to the functionality of Google Latitude, which Apple relegated to WebApp status earlier this year. Obviously if Apple is working on their own version of Google Latitude (or owns the IP rights to this functionality), they'd be hesitant to put an app with the same functionality on their devices from another company."
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Why Apple Denied the Google Latitude App

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  • I Smell Patent War (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:20PM (#30623718)

    This begs the question, if Google already had an app out, who did it first?

    Obviously the patent process takes years.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:42PM (#30623976)

      Either way, this is a pretty clear example of why no company should be allowed to have control over what software consumers can put on devices that they own. It was wrong when the phone companies tried to be sole arbiter, and it is just as wrong for Apple to play that role. It is guaranteed to be abused sooner or later in a way that prevents competition in the marketplace and harms consumers. It was only a matter of time.

      I so badly want to see the FTC slap Apple with fines every day until they open the iPhone up to apps sold outside the app store without Apple vetting. That is the only action that sets a strong enough precedent that consumers are in charge of devices that they paid for and have a right to tinker.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        While I agree that it is in the consumer's best interest to have Apple open the store to all comers I don't agree that the FTC has legal grounds to slap them with fines (I know you didn't SAY that they had it - just sort of implied that maybe they could). Anyway, the lack of open access to the store is why I don't have an iPhone and instead waited and waited and waited and finally got a Droid (which I am thrilled with). It's also why anyone who cares about this type of issue shouldn't get an iPhone. We all
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You mean raises the question. Begging the question is a form of logical fallacy which basically means that you are assuming something is true/false in order to prove that it's true/false.

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Yes, my mistake. It's so often misused sometimes it's hard not to.

      • by Ragzouken (943900) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:42PM (#30624594)

        This just begs the question "Who the hell cares?"

      • Begs the question makes the unitiated English speaker (or those who didn't pay much attention in English 101) think something is so off in some way that one feel a powerful urge to comment. An emotionally stronger version of raising the question so to speak. To say that begs the question can only be a logical fallacy is about as well... logical as claiming a straw man is only a fallacy, and can't be a humanoid shaped object made of straw.

    • by toppavak (943659) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:23PM (#30624440)
      The patent application [uspto.gov] was filed on June 30th 2008. Google released Latitude February 4th, 2009. This would seem to indicate Apple was first, but there's a key difference between the products. The Apple patent specifically deals with sharing location information by text message and only by text message, Google Latitude makes use of mobile internet connections. There's no patent dispute here, merely Apple acting like Apple and rejecting apps which may compete with current or planned functionality that Apple wants to deliver over their platform.

      I am by no means a big fan of Apple or Apple products in general, but for those screaming "anti-trust" Apple is entirely within their right to do this (although whether its the "right" thing to do is questionable) considering A) Apple has nothing near a monopoly over the smartphone market B) A monopoly over one's own product is hardly a monopoly and C) Even if Apple were able to completely supplant Google Latitude among iPhone users, they're not going to be selling their software on the other 90% of smartphones out there anytime soon.
  • single good thing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:27PM (#30623798)
    Has there been a single good thing to come out of software patents? It seems like every single day there is a story posted about a patent that has clear prior art or is trivial and doesn't innovate or invent anything. The US needs to stop software patents if they want to let technology innovate.
    • by tgd (2822)

      Considering that it generally costs $30-$40k to file a reasonable software patent, even if you're only filing it for potential defensive purposes (which is wise, these days... believe me... BTDT)... its a pretty damn good thing for the patent attorneys.

      Not so much for the rest of us.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:39PM (#30623926) Homepage
      Looking at the actual patent language (not just the abstract) I cannot find one little bit where a) it's not obvious and b) there is any real creativity or difficulty in the overall concept. The hardware and programming end of it of course can be difficult but that is not what is covered here.

      How did this stinker end up as a patent rather than having the actual implementation of said obvious idea?
      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:14PM (#30624338)

        That's my biggest beef with most software patents - the whole idea of the patent is to lay down HOW to do some revolutionary new idea. That's supposed to be the cost of getting your limited monopoly. Software patents usually only give you the what, not the how, and in my opinion should be null. How can I be violating his patent if he never describes how he does it? Or, if it's so simple that they did not need to describe how it is done, how the hell did they get a patent in the first place?

        These patents should be loaded with pseudo-code to achieve the stated goals, and if someone comes along who can significantly improve the design of the pseudo-code then they should get a patent too, just like with physical inventions.

        That's my opinion. I wouldn't mind software patents if they were treated the same as hardware patents, but they aren't.

  • Times change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qwavel (733416) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:32PM (#30623844)

    Back in the day we (including myself) used to get mad at MS for all the anti-competitive things they did.

    Now Apple comes along with stuff that MS never dreamed of (or could have got away with) and everybody loves them. Now I get to listen to my friends talk about what a wonderful and cool company Apple is and how they invented everything.

    What is going on here?

    • Not everybody (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:42PM (#30623962)

      There are many of us who view this stuff poorly. I have not, do not, and will not own any Apple products. I simply do not like their closed platforms and anti-competitive nature, and I certainly won't pay more for the privilege of being restricted. Yes they have some nice hardware, but that in itself cannot overcome their approach to doing business.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)

      I've got an iPhone. I generally like Apple. I'll admit some of this stuff seems a little ridiculous. I'm not that mad at this, here's why.

      Apple tends to make good interfaces, so the Apple app will probably be good. It's not like Google's app is being denied to be replaced with some horrible piece of junk. It could be worse.

      But the real thing is while Apple is doing this, it's WAY better than the pre-Apple cell phone world. I can buy a game (like Bejewelled) that connects to Facebook for $3. Games used to

      • Re:Times change (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Burdell (228580) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:14PM (#30624342)

        My crappy little free phone can run Google Maps and any of a half-dozen or so other GPS mapping programs that I can download for free. The people that write them don't need my phone manufacturer or cell provider's permission. They can compete with the GPS app that came with the phone. The same is true for web browsers and so many other things. Why is it that when Apple is afraid of the slightest bit of competition and locks it out at every opportunity, people accept it (even for one minute, much less for two years)? Apple's app may be the best thing every made, but if that is the case, it'll be more widely used than Google's on its own merits, not because Apple is afraid to let Google compete with them.

        • by MBCook (132727)

          I'm willing to trade "Apple-yness" for the experience they bring. They're not a monopoly, you can always go WinMo or Android or Symbian. I'm also aware of how much the market has changed as a result of their appearance, much for the better.

          Apple came in and took over the cell phone market. Everyone wants to better Apple, the iPhone, the App Store. They are "the" cell phone company right now, so people like to take pot shots at them whenever possible.

          OK, the BB/Android/WinMo is more open. Until Apple came

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by negRo_slim (636783)

        it's WAY better than the pre-Apple cell phone world

        Personally I preferred when phones were just phones.

      • Apple didn't invent this!!!

        My WinMo smartphones had applications and games available from places like handango years before the iPhone came along.

        The app store is not new, it just seems so to johnny come latelys. It's the same with most of iPhones technology. It just seems new to people who weren't paying attention.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Not everyone is ok with this. I have been an apple fan since day 3, ( since i wasn't out on the west coast back then to have heard of them, it wasn't on day 1 ) and I'm appalled by what is going on.

    • by nilbog (732352)

      I think the people you are referring to exist only in your own mind. Sure, people love Apple - but if you describe to them how their app store policies hurt developers, innovation, and competition pretty much everyone is going to agree that's a bad thing.

  • Obviously? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mliu (85608) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:35PM (#30623876) Homepage

    "Obviously if Apple is working on their own version of Google Latitude (or owns the IP rights to this functionality), they'd be hesitant to put an app with the same functionality on their devices from another company."

    That's not obvious at all to me. It harms the vibrancy of their marketplace, it harms the goodwill of the developer community, and ultimately, it would appear to harm the competitiveness of the device by hindering competition for improved functionality. The only reason they can get away with this BS is because they're Apple, the 900 lb gorilla of the new generation smartphone market at the moment.

    • by MBCook (132727)

      ... the 900 lb gorilla of the new generation smartphone market at the moment.

      If Apple is a 900 lb gorilla, then Google is a 2 ton elephant. Aren't there already apps on the store that do this kind of thing? I think this is more of a "We can't let Google win" thing. Would they deny Joe Bob Software's "Find-My-Friend" app?

      We'll see how this all sorts out, especially with competitive pressure from others companies. People keep saber rattling about getting investigations into this (and we saw that start with G

    • Maybe in the US but they are not really the 900lb Gorilla not even remotely worldwide, the Gorilla still is Nokia... They just have the most press coverage with Android currently being close second!

  • by KingSkippus (799657) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:36PM (#30623882) Homepage Journal

    I have an iPhone, and it's a wonderful device, but as soon as my contract runs out (maybe sooner), I'll be moving to a different platform, and this is exactly why.

    As long as the iPhone is a closed platform with the only way to get apps through the app store, you will be dealing with this. Apple isn't going to allow competing applications on the device because they simply don't have to. They give a good song and dance about how closed the device is being about the "user experience," but the simple truth is that they don't want competition from other sources. That's their business model, it's how they work.

    It's a crying shame, because Apple really is a good company when it comes to style and design, and especially in figuring out exactly what scratches consumers' itches. But this is almost historically identical to what happened with the Macintosh a couple of decades ago. They kept it so closely-held and closed that when the PC came along, which allowed users to shrug off proprietary and use it how they wanted to instead of how some company told them to, Apple damn near went out of business.

    I really do hate to see them rebuild their reputation (and market value) again, just to throw it all away like they did last time, but damned if it doesn't look like that's exactly what they're trying to do.

    • I really do hate to see them rebuild their reputation (and market value) again, just to throw it all away like they did last time, but damned if it doesn't look like that's exactly what they're trying to do.

      Actually, you've got it exactly backwards. Apple nearly went out of business because they went more open and allowed Mac clones. Now that they are (arguably) more closed in that respect, they are extremely successful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gad_zuki! (70830)

        No, by the time they went to clones, that damage was already done. The Mac was this very expensive solution that didnt do much more than a PC that cost $1,000 less. They couldnt compete and decided to sell clones.

        • by Swift2001 (874553)

          And the clones were sucking money from the platform without any benefits to the mothership. They got a minute amount of marketshare at the cost of a huge cut in profits. What the hell was that about? Dunderhead accountants were running the company. They had essentially stopped the development of the Mac, going for a profusion of lackluster models that had nothing much going for them.

          When Jobs came back, within 6 months it was a going concern.

      • by Qwavel (733416)

        Actually, I think it was the success of the iPod that revived them more then the switch back to a closed hardware platform.

        But either way, I would argue against the implication that Apple MUST maintain such a closed platform in order to be profitable. I think we all accept that Apple is very good at marketing and execution and that they have the most valuable/cool brand in technology. Yes, the ways that they keep their platform closed and under tight control produce a little extra gravy for the bottom lin

        • by Swift2001 (874553)

          Who the hell are the majority of sales of iPods to? To Windows users! They made a Windows version of iTunes and Quicktime. They even switched to the crummy USB interface, so Windows users wouldn't have the tsuris of buying a 1394 card.

          Hey, I want to try out a Zune. Where the Apple software for that? None? Well, how about the Linux hardware and software? Well, wait a minute. Let me get my compiler fired up and write a few scraps of python.

      • wrong diagnosis (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pydev (1683904)

        Actually, you've got it exactly backwards. Apple nearly went out of business because they went more open and allowed Mac clones. Now that they are (arguably) more closed in that respect, they are extremely successful.

        Apple's woes had nothing to do with allowing clones; Apple nearly went out of business because MacOS was a bad, proprietary platform and because Apple was bleeding money at an enormous rate.

        Apple is successful now because they have been piggy-backing on open source technologies (Mach, gcc, tons

        • by Swift2001 (874553)

          Note: just because other problems existed doesn't mean the ones you're seeking to discredit didn't contribute.

      • by Swift2001 (874553)

        But they immediately, on the return of Jobs, began opening the platform. They adopted USB, which was Intel's, and Wi-Fi, and they phased out proprietary protocols like Appletalk and so on. The "i-Mac" was the "Internet Mac," so hooking up with other computers became a priority. I worked an Intel Mac on an all-Windows network, and it worked, straight out of the box, and did all the basic communications. The Exchange interoperability on the iPhone is serious, though still limited to MS's licensing. The root l

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Right! The last Apple product that i bought was an early Mac. Writing code for it was unnecessarily difficult because Apple was protecting the secrets of the "OS". I used SUN products for a while after that, but since really open systems became available I've used them exclusively. I will do the same thing with phones.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:19PM (#30624394)
        yes. Many people just don't know this about Apple. In the mid to late 80's Apple was well known for being extremely obtuse about low level programming information and tools for the Mac. Not only did they refuse to give out development tools for free, but they also refused to allow others to have enough information to develop their own .. at any price.

        Apple has been asshats since the first Mac, but somehow in the 90's they managed to turn popular opinion around while remaining asshats.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MemoryDragon (544441)

          The assheadness always had a lot to do with the CEO... Apple was open when the designes came from Wozniak he always opted for open system, they then closed everything with the Mac, guess who was at the helm.
          Apple again became more open when the CEO was ousted, and now they have become more and more closed again.
          As much as I love their OS and their computers, but their attitude becomes worse and worse every year :-(

          • by aftk2 (556992)
            What a ridiculous argument. You seem to forget that this CEO –the one so supposedly hateful of all things open –helmed a software company based significantly on open source technology, and brought it back to the Mac when he took over again!
            • by pydev (1683904) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @04:14PM (#30625552)

              Steve Jobs doesn't "hate" using open source. For example, he tried to keep the Objective-C extensions to GCC closed source in violation of the GPL; it took a lot of legal saber rattling by GNU to get him to comply.

              Apple is somewhat better now than they were 20 years ago, but they are still taking much more from the open source community than they are giving back. Without FOSS, Apple would be out of business; but even if all of Apple's contributions to FOSS disappeared overnight, people would hardly notice.

          • by Swift2001 (874553)

            Though Jobs is more closed that Woz, hell, the whole world is. The "openness" of the various colored water salesmen who ran Apple nearly drove it into the ground. Jobs made a huge success by OPENING it. He apparently learned from his mistakes.

            Yeah, "assheadedness", right. CEO of the Decade.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:14PM (#30624908)

      >I have an iPhone, and it's a wonderful device, but as soon as my contract runs out (maybe sooner), I'll be moving to a different platform, and this is exactly why.

      Same here. Im leaning towards an android phone bought without subsidy and getting on T-mobile's non-subsidized plan for 59.99 unlimited text/data and 500 minutes. Thats about 30 dollars less a month than the equivalent plan on ATT and Im only going to pay an extra 200 dollars down, which pays for itself in less than one year.

      >They give a good song and dance about how closed the device is being about the "user experience," but the simple truth is that they don't want competition from other sources.

      Turns out history was right: There's no such thing as a benevolent dictator. Turns out centralization from an unaccountable group leads to abuse. Apple is just a thug in the market and with its controlled devices, its helping no one but its bottom line.

    • by Swift2001 (874553)

      They're not closed. Anybody can submit apps to the store. I'd say you have a better chance getting noticed BECAUSE of the fact that every iPhone owner plugs in his phone to the App store for charging every night. They carry the advertising, the bandwidth, etc. All they've got is a flavor of Unix, and their software development tools are pretty great. If you know your stuff, you can make an app very quickly.

      And the iPhone, well, it connects to the 3G network, to Wi-Fi, to Bluetooth, and keeps on expanding it

      • Is Microsoft open? No.

        I can distribute any Windows application I want to whomever I want in a multitude of ways to choose from with or without involving a third party in doing so. Is Microsoft open? No, but in that sense, it's a hell of a lot more open than Apple is.

        Anybody can submit apps to the store.

        Actually Apple's vetting process for developers is just as stupid as it is for apps. I paid my $99 to Apple to join their developer program. They demanded documentation that I was who I said I was. I sen

  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:44PM (#30624004)

    No manufacturer has the right to prohibit person A from installing on a device he owns software written by person B: any legal or technological measures to this end are immoral, and ought to be barred by consumer protection laws.

    • by IANAAC (692242)

      any legal or technological measures to this end are immoral, and ought to be barred by consumer protection laws.

      Or just let the free market take care of it. Unfortunately (in my opinion) this is what the market/consumers want, or at least will tolerate.

    • by selven (1556643)

      Don't like it, don't buy it, nobody's forcing you - Apple doesn't have anything close to a monopoly.

      That's my fundamental principle.

    • by Swift2001 (874553)

      You realize that legally, that puts a virus on a legal footing.

  • is that it requires that the app approvers know what patents Apple has in the process.

    This is of course a possibility; it's also a possibility that there's an IP lawyer looking over every submitted (or even ever just-about-to-be-approved) app, for just that kind of thing. But that doesn't really fit with the workflow descriptions that have come out into the open, so I don't think it's very likely.

    (It's also possible that he reviewers are given general directions occasionally, such as, "All Google-submitted

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RattFink (93631)

      is that it requires that the app approvers know what patents Apple has in the process.

      ...or far more likely it could mean that approves have a list of gidelines in which they refer to when approving apps, and those gidelines forbid certain kinds of apps, such as those that allow tethering or ones that show the presence of friends on a map that Latitude offers. I don't see why it would require anyone to be in the know of internal app development there.

    • by mliu (85608)

      I don't think it necessarily has to be the way you're describing.

      Seems to me the easiest way to implement such a policy at Apple would be to draw up a set of rules for reviewers to follow, something like this:
      1. If an app is a dialer, deny it because it duplicates dialer functionality
      2. If the app contains Apple logos, deny it because it infringes our trademarks
      etc.
      with an entry for
      X. If the app contains a way to place the user's friends on a map, deny it because it duplicates functionality.

      No need for revi

  • DidnMt Nokia have such a product long before Google?

  • My device (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy Smith (55346) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:28PM (#30625072) Homepage

    "they'd be hesitant to put an app with the same functionality on their devices"

    But, you see, it's my device. I bought it. I'd like to be able to choose between the Google product and the Apple product and use the best one.

    • But it's their store. And if everything that you want on your device has to come from their store, just maybe you should have thought of that first.
    • by Ecuador (740021)

      Except you already made the choice, when you bought the iPhone... Too late now! ;)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ShinmaWa (449201)

      But.. you see.. it's their store. They paid for it. They can choose what they want to sell.

      If the device is tightly bound to the store and you knew that ahead of time (as well you should have), then it's rather your fault for purchasing the device, isn't it. Caveat emptor, and all that.

  • Equivalency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Powys (1274816) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @05:37PM (#30626364)
    What if Microsoft were to ban the installation of OpenOffice, LotusNotes, Word Perfect, etc. because they compete with their Office? I bet this would be a whole different conversation.
    • Re:Equivalency (Score:4, Insightful)

      by toriver (11308) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @07:33PM (#30627426)

      Yeah, it's not like Microsoft explicitly aded code to DOS to prevent Lotus 123 from running under the motto "DOS ain't done until Lotus won't run". Oh wait, they did.

      These days they stick to FUD instead of code, thankfully. Maye because they were one presidential election away from an antitrust conviction back when Bush Jr. came into the office?

  • by toriver (11308) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @07:44PM (#30627526)

    Google's app was probably full of Googlish "we will scrape all info we can find on your device and send to or servers just in case" features that Google fans seem to find a shedload of excuses for.

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