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Why Apple has shot itself in the foot

While everyone is going crazy about Apple's billion dollar patent victory over Samsung, the psychological effect on consumers has been ignored.

Several times throughout the case, the same point was driven home: The Android phone is identical to, and perhaps better than, the iPhone. This "revelation," which Android users have always known, will easily cost Apple more than a billion dollars in sales.

Much of this case revolved around the fact that Samsung obviously copied certain icons already used by Apple. The most blatant is the white phone on the green background which indicates that you want to bring up the keypad or initiate the actual call.

My Galaxy Nexus shows a blue phone on a transparent background.

Locking itself to the Apple icon was arbitrary, but it was Apple's idea first. Nokia or Motorola should have patented the colour green to indicate the dialler and red to indicate the disconnect button. Both companies would be in trouble, but why dwell on opportunities lost? Green and red stem from stop and go traffic signals, which are also arbitrary. Someone could have patented that and everyone would be in trouble.

Do you see how stupid the current patent system is? But I digress.

The white handset icon set against a green background is a critical part in fully understanding how similar the Samsung phone is to the iPhone. In fact, Apple designer Susan Kare actually testified that when she was playing with the Samsung phone, she swore it was an Apple iPhone! Her testimony was quite convincing. It convinced millions of people that for less money, they can get an iPhone by buying Samsung's phone. Genius!

But it gets worse.

Apple made a big deal about its patents on the bezel, the angles of the corner curves, and other designs it apparently patented. People in general reacted with astonishment that anyone could get a patent for a curve, or straight line, or flat surface.

This sent two messages through the brains of consumers: Firstly, this is an idiotic patent and Apple is grasping at straws. And secondly, that the company is spending too much time on minutiae rather than actual functionality.

And now, go back and compare Samsung's calling icon with Apple's. The Samsung art for the handset is better than Apple's simplistic art. Samsung's just looks more modern. I'm sure this is one of the reasons Susan Kare confused the Android phone with the Apple phone, as she assumed the slicker version of the exact same phone would be Apple, by default.

This is a disaster for Apple no matter what Samsung does to its interface and its rounded corners. The case and its results, because of Apple testimonies, make it sound as if Apple was suing because a better product evolved.

Will the public stick with the iPhone just to be loyal to the creator of the modern smartphone concepts? In a down economy where every penny counts, it's doubtful. Samsung is not only a cheaper alternative but has many more models. Combine this with the scandals at Foxconn, Apple's manufacturer, and Apple is in trouble.

Keep in mind that Samsung makes many of the iPhone components, including the custom CPU, and Samsung has not even begun to leverage that sort of information.

I consider this situation to be dire for Apple. When the iPhone 5 arrives shortly, it will be crunch time for the company. If this is the end of the line for the iPhone, you can point to this lawsuit as the tipping point. It may be the last important iPhone.

I'm reminded of how the little-known MP3 gained popularity when the RIAA filed various lawsuits. Apple may have pulled a similar stunt by alerting the public to the fact that the Samsung phone is the exact same thing as an iPhone, or better.

A billion dollars well spent.