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Why The Boycott Apple Movement Matters; Why It’s Not Dumb

A new movement has started on the social networking sites it’s called BoycottApple. We noticed that even the hardcore Apple users have come out in protest of what Apple is doing against its competitors. However, at the same time we have Mike Elgan who thinks this whole movement is dumb. I, for one, don’t think so.

Mike Elgan has published a passionate article “Why the ‘Boycott Apple’ Movement is Dumb” on Cult of Mac. I agree with Mike most of the time, but this time I do not.

He cites the reasons why he thinks “the call for a boycott is misguided and futile”:

It’s based on the myth of Apple exceptionalism.

Boycott Apple advocates pretend to believe what they do not (or should not) believe, that companies don’t sue over patents because they are nice, or virtuous or believe in the free exchange of ideas. The reality is that they don’t sue because they don’t have a case, and it isn’t worth it financially.

That’s not true; most companies don’t sue because they believe in capturing the market via innovation instead of litigation. They don’t acquire stupid patents like ’rounded’ rectangular devices. If that was the case there would be only one TV manufacturer in the world which could make rectangular TV sets with rounded corners. The rest of the TV makers would be making triangular or circular TVs.

Apple has sued every company that appeared to be a potential threat to their market. After all, Microsoft’s Surface tablet has a visual design similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab recently put under fire, but we very much doubt that Apple will sue Microsoft.

More than that there is a prejudice here. The anger against Apple is not based on a myth of exceptionalism. It is based on a fact that its founder swore before he died that Apple will go to ‘thermonuclear war‘ to destroy Android. What better case can there be for ‘exceptionalism’?

#BoycottApple is based on the myth that Apple is not exceptional

However, if the iPhone were banned in the US, the company would buckle under the impact. Apple has just one phone. And that phone represents a massive percentage of the company’s revenue.

As if having just one product is the fault of the rest of the industry. Search and display ads used to be Google’s only product. Google didn’t sue every other search engine or display ad company. On the contrary there are gazillions of such companies (even Microsoft, the biggest copycat in the IT world, tried to enter the display ad market) but instead of suing them Google continues to innovate and maintains its leadership on the basis of superior product.

Put Bing and Google together and there is a reason you will choose Google — the results are better. They did not sue even if they had only one product.

The argument of suing left and right since you have only one product holds no ground.

So, the movement is not based on the myth that Apple is not exceptional.

#It’s based on the myth that Apple doesn’t innovate”
No one is calling for #boycott Apple because they don’t innovate. If such a movement ever starts it will be started by the Apple users themselves to improve the quality of Apple products.

Let’s get it clear what #BoycottApple is not about:

  • Boycott Apple is not about a myth that Apple doesn’t innovate. No one started to boycott Apple when they learned that Apple shamelessly stole from Xerox Alto.
  • The movement did not strart because Steve Jobs admitted that Apple has been shameless about stealing great ideas.
  • The movement did not start when iOS 5 copied (or in Apple’s words, ‘stole’) a lot of important features of Android.
  • The movement did not start when iOS6 ‘stole’ the idea of 3D maps from Google.
  • The movement did not start when Apple stole the idea of popular 3rd party apps, banned them from the AppStore and introduced them as a feature of iOS with the next release.
  • The movement did not start when Apple banned GPL licensed apps from the AppStore.
  • The movement did not start when Apple became the moral police and removed the Wikileaks app from its App Store.

The movement started when Apple, fearing loss of market share, started using ridiculous patents, which should not have been granted in the first place, and its deep pockets to get the competitor’s products banned.

Apple did not sue Samsung asking ‘hey that feature infringes upon our stupid patent remove it from your product’. They called for a compelete ban. That’s even more infuriating. It’s like BMW gets Mercedes cars banned because the icon of ‘horn’ on Merc’s steering wheel looked like that of BMW.

It’s ridiculous.

Apple Doesn’t Respect Other’s Trademarks
Apple is not known for respecting other’s trademarks as much as it wants to ‘defend‘ its own. The historical legal battle between legendary Beatles and Apple is evident of that fact.

I trust many iPhone users are not even aware that iPhone is a trademark of Linksys/Infogear (now acquired by Cisco). Apple did not give a damn about the trademark and went ahead to launch the product, despite objections by the then trademark holder. Cisco sued Apple for infringing their trademark. Later the two companies reached an agreement and they both own trademark on the word iPhone.

The entire iPhone design and concept is a blatant copy and paste of the LG’s Prada phone. Woo-Young Kwak, head of LG Mobile Handset R&D Center, said at a press conference: “we consider that Apple copied Prada phone after the design was unveiled when it was presented in the iF Design Award and won the prize in September 2006.”

While the company doesn’t care about the trademarks of others, it goes to extreme to ‘defend’ its own. It doesn’t feel ashamed of going after a tiny coffee shop in a tiny town of Germany and suing a family-run shop because Apple thinks Apfelkind infinges on its trademark. How is that going to confuse users? Will someone walk into the coffee shop and order an iPad?

Don’t Blame Apple, Blame The System
No doubt that our patent system is broken. Apple actually went global, beyond ‘our system’, and started suing Android players in every potential market around the world. [Apple lost two major design related cases in The Netherlands and UK, which is great news.]

Not everyone is abusing the loopholes in our system. When was the last time Samsung sued LG, Sony, Sharp, or Panasonic because their TVs, laptops, and BluRay players looked similar? Did they claim design patent on a rectangular device which can be used to watch movies? Never! These companies believe in their products, they innovate and move on to the next product.

Apple Is Scared
I think Apple has started to fear that it cannot innovate any more. Either way, Apple is now trying to catch-up with Android. It was evident in the number of features Apple ‘stole’ from Android and implemented in the iOS5 and 6. Google did not sue Apple for doing so because that would be dumb. You do that only when you are insecure, when you are frightened that you have no new ideas left to sell.

Who Abuses The Loopholes?
I will give you a stupid example. You walk into a store with surveillance cameras all around you. The system is good. Perfect. You don’t try to steal anything. You walk into another store and there are no security cameras. No system in place because the shopkeeper trusts its customers. Will you start slipping things into your bags and pockets? No. Even though there is no system in place to monitor theft, you won’t steal. You won’t steal because you have ethics. Now, what kind of person would steal from this shop just because there is no monitoring system in place or because the shopkeeper trusts its customers?

A thief. A criminal.

That’s what Apple is doing. Taking advantage of a system which allows abuse, theft and crime. Mike while blames the system for allowing it, doesn’t allow people to criticise Apple for committing it.

The BoycottApple movement is not ‘haters talking to each other‘. This is the very technique corporate media adopts to crush any movement. That’s what the US corporate media did to destroy the Occupy Wall Street or Ron Paul R3volution.

The Boycott movement is happening because people are getting sick of Apple’s tactics. It is happening because people are getting tired of Apple’s crimes. Because people are getting upset with the way Apple is using its deep pockets and the legal system to kill competition and restrict users’ choices.

The people who are calling for BoycottApple are some of the smartest people I ever met. They are not running a dumb movement. It’s not fair to call it dumb. What I would call dumb is the message that I got on my email from an acquaintance who was very angry with Microsoft for removing GPLed apps from their Market Place. He called it an attack on open source and user’s freedom. The message signature said ‘Sent from my iPhone’.

That reminded me of The Matrix:

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, and carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Boycott Apple is one of the most important online movements, something similar to the movement we saw in our fight against SOPA, PIPA and ACTA.

Yes, I agree with Mike that the patent system is broken and it must be fixed. Everyone is playing their part. Organizations like EFF, who have legal expertise, are working on it. The industry players are working on it and are calling for a meeting in October. Users are working on it with their tiny #BoycottApple movement.

Let’s go back to the example of the shop without cameras. Getting new cameras installed is important. But until we deploy cameras in the shop should we allow criminals to steal? Should not we spread awareness?

So, until the patent system is fixed we cannot let Apple bully other players.

If you agree join the movement and #BoycottApple.

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Edits by Josh Vanderwillik, Kenny Strawn, George Rogers, Jason Huff, Zachary Bittner and Adam DiFrischia

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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