Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Apple Puts Its Foot In It

I think it is fair to say that the Apple lot are an inventive crowd.  Most tech companies seem to be on one side of the form or function divide but Apple consistently appear to successfully straddle both areas.  So they produce products that look great, handle superbly and work efficiently - well, perhaps we'll put iOS 6 and the mapping saga to one side for now.

Like all such companies they patent their ideas as they get them, whether they intend using the ideas or not.  The timing may not be right or they may not even know how they intend to make the idea work, but lodging a patent establishes their pole in the sand - this is their idea.

And once a patent is established companies such as Apple defend the right to own the idea vigorously - just look at the shenanigans we witnessed as Apple dragged Samsung around the courts last year over their ideas ranging from rectangular shapes with rounded corners (or butter dishes as we used to call them) to modelling the Newtonian effects on virtual images when they reach the last page on an iPhone.

Now it appears they have patented an idea that potentially solves the age old problem of deciding when to buy a new pair of shoes.  At the risk of sounding sexist I suspect the patent is directed at males - the females in my life never seem to need any prompts to buy shoes.  Now blokes, we tend to buy a new pair of shoes when the old pair is worn out.

That's where the new patent comes in.  Apple are suggesting that sensors are embedded in the soles of shoes - their patent clearly targets the heel but in good patent format they are suggesting anywhere in the sole will do, they clearly don't want some Smart Alec pinching their idea and patenting the same idea only using the toe cap area.  The sensor monitors the amount of flexing the shoe undertakes, beams the data to the ever present iPhone or iPad where an app applies a bit of calculus to the whole shebang and, just before the shoes fall apart, the owner is prompted to pop along to the shops to buy another pair.

It beats looking at your shoes or remembering to notice if water keeps entering from the underside.

Before anyone accuses me of poking fun at Apple let me say that I think it is a really good idea.  Guys are notoriously bad at recognising the warning signs that their shoes are about to disintegrate as any woman will attest.  In fact I don't think I've initiated a shoe buying trip in nearly thirty years as my wife always lets me know my shoes are about to fall apart before I notice the problem.

So what Apple are really suggesting is that they can replace wives. Or more realistically, they are suggesting ways to free up our wives' time so that they can do something  more useful.  So although the patent is clearly aimed at mens' shoes, it's really targeting at saving women time.  Which is the kind of thing that Apple are really good at, so the patent does make sense.

Which means my wife will now have more time to notice if my hat is wearing out before I feel water running on my head.  Of course, if anyone wants to take me up on my own patent, one for predicting when one needs to buy a new hat (moisture sensor under the fabric) then that would really give my wife some free time.


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