Open Source

The sitting duck that is open source

A jury irresponsibly awarded a huge victory to Apple over Samsung. This judgement could have a serious impact on not only the landscape of smartphones, but the whole of open source.

Last week a Jury ruled against Samsung in what I would consider not just a travesty of justice, but a mockery of our court of law. That ruling, in favor of Apple, not only opened up a Pandora's box of possible ridiculous IP lawsuits, but it reminded me that open source is just a sitting duck for such law suits and juries like the one that awarded a big shameless win in Apple's column are loaded for bear.

Here's what really gets me about this -- open source is, at its heart and soul, OPEN. Anyone can grab the source of application and pick through it with as fine a comb as they need. With that in mind, what developer (or company) in their right mind would steal someone else's intellectual property and integrate it into their code?

None -- that's who.

But this lawsuit tosses logic out the window and says, "It doesn't really have to be code -- can be a design metaphor or paradigm. Now, any platform with a Dock might be fodder for Apple's lawyers.

Have a Start Menu? Watch out, here comes Microsoft!

But let's take this back a few years. Remember NeXTSTEP? Apple bought them -- most likely to avoid such a lawsuit. Remember the original Xerox mouse? Maybe that company should open up a can of lawsuit on Apple for basically stealing their idea.

Or... let's go back even further. Who was it that invented the square? That genius should crawl out of the grave and sue Apple for designing the iPad around that shape.

You see where this is going, right? It's leading to law suits like George A. Romero suing me for writing books about zombies. It's leading to Rush suing any band with three members. It's leading to the Babylonians suing the world for continuing to use Algebra.

Ultimately, however, what this does is open up a sky of vultures hovering over open source.  Because of the nature of open source, any company can pick and preen over the code and any bit that might even remotely resemble a fraction of a glimpse of intellectual property owned by the third party-- BAM! You've been lawyered.

I don't like where this is going. Not. One. Bit. This whole nightmare scenario puts open source at a severe disadvantage. Not one open source project I know of has the capital to defend itself in a court of law -- especially for a frivolous, pointless, selfish grab for power (such as the one Apple just won).

As all of you know, I am not only a huge advocate of open source, I am proud of what the open source community has achieved and how they've managed bring to life some of the best projects on the planet. The idea that everything could be scattered to the four winds, simply because a jury made an incredibly irresponsible judgment, makes me realize the foundation open source rests on could be shakier than we'd all like to think.

I hope Samsung will take this back to the courts and appeal this until the court system realizes their folly. Maybe they should use the same tactics as Apple has used and sue for the obvious thievery on Apple's part (hello, drag-down notification bar!) Otherwise, this judgment could be the call to arms for proprietary companies to take aim at open source and shoot them down like sitting ducks.

Maybe what needs to happen is a sort of vetting process for open source code -- just so there is legal documentation/proof that no IP infringement has occurred. Of course, even that wouldn't protect from lawsuits claiming that the use of two fingers on a glass screen as a human interface is a patent infringement.

I certainly hope I'm wrong about this and the trickle-down effect doesn't rain on the open source parade. But I have a sneaking suspicion, if this isn't overturned, the ramifications might get pretty ugly.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

123 comments
trilithium
trilithium

The American patent system, like some others, allows stupid patents. The patent reviewers do not reject them, because they have no incentive to do so, and after all, why would they reject a patent from a company based in their own country? Perhaps some of them don't even recognise when a patent is stupid. And it is not just patents. In Europe, Apple obtained a Registered Design for a glass-fronted rectangle thingy, which it was totally stupid of the registrar to accept, but there seems to be no democracy with regard to getting it rejected, and so it stands, enabling Apple to prevent sales of various Samsung products. While Apple have won in the USA (not surprisingly, with an American jury, on American soil, no doubt some of them owning iPads, and no doubt feeling it unpatriotic to fail to defend a good old American company against some upshot foreigners), the reverse may be true elsewhere, in other words Apple may find a very different view taken in other jurisdictions, such as all over the Far East, including S.Korea and Japan. Such a situation, in which truth varies depending on where you happen to be located, makes a mockery of the supposedly international nature of patents. It is analogous to individual member states of the Euro Zone cheating with regard to honouring the rules on how much their governments can borrow, which of course has happened, and is partly why the Euro is in such a mess. If it comes down to a Mexican Standoff between the USA, Europe, and countries in the Far East, the USA may prevail in the short term, because it definitely plays hardball, but ultimately it will lose out when the tide turns, the Renmimbi takes over as the world currency, and China calls all the shots. Then it will be time for a sweet dish served cold. Patents are used as war chests by big players to keep small players out of markets. As such, they are anti-competitive. The big players indulge in legal cartels, ie they agree not to attack each other, because they are all heavily armed, so the result of any conflict will be pointlessly self-damaging, with unpredictable outcomes, except for one guaranteed outcome, which is that the lawyers get fatter. It is worth remembering that many law makers are lawyers. If you wonder why laws are so unnecessarily complex, it is because that gives lawyers plenty of work. Patents similarly are made very obscure. I know this from reading translations of some Japanese patents. This also is deliberate. It gives plenty of room for endless litigation. More and fatter lawyers. The lawyers will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes. But until then they are taking everyone for all they can get. Including the big companies that retain them.

darudmon
darudmon

HAL9000 is right about Inventing Patients. Part of the ruling said Samsung copied the iPhone's rounded corners! Really? Then shouldn't etch a sketch be suing Apple?

dcmartin
dcmartin

The American legal system is flawed. The hope of getting a sane result from a bunch of random picked jury members with no true technical training is gung ho madness. A three to five judge bench would be a better idea.

emenau
emenau

Naaaaaaaaaaaaa Atari had a start menu right? That was when PC's still ran on DOS and Windows still had to be invented. Will Atari now sue the crap out of Microsoft? What if? And Atari wins, could that be the end of Microsoft? (please sue them..)

emenau
emenau

Naaaaaaaaaaaaa Atari had a start menu right? That was when PC's still ran on DOS and Windows still had to be invented. Will Atari now sue the crap out of Microsoft? What if? And Atari wins, could that be the end of Microsoft? (please sue them..)

emenau
emenau

This is exactly why GPL and FREE software is a better route then OpenSource In Open Souce only the source is open, the philosophy behind GPL has a better foundation. All the big greedy companies Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Ford, Chryser, Boing, Philips, Sony, all capitalised on idea's from HUMANS. When you work for these companies, and invent something then it automatically becomes THEIR idea. So when you have a contract, then you sold your ideas to the devil. And it is no longer your idea. And now they also STEAL the ideas from whoever they can sue... So just share EVERYTHING, share service manuals, and copy and improve all of them. Copy and combine EVERYTHING so they no longer can see what you remixed from who, and the have to sue THEIR OWN KIND. Share if you care. set your idea's free. (under GPL) *your own thoughts go here* Expand on this however you like, this is a free world right? So CLAIM YOUR FREEDOM and be free. Is that an idea?

kdkulkarni
kdkulkarni

Why Apple is behind Samsung ? May be because it's non American. Are Jury members unbiased ? Many of the Patents are just funny!

alzie
alzie

The up side is that infringement litigation cost lots of money. Companies wont launch one unless there is a significant ROI. So far, open source, except android, is small potatoes. The rest of open source should be safe. How do you bleed a stone? Google? May be big enough that they can get away un scathed. The legal system is all about trial by champion. He who hath the better lawyer wins. Bigger money buys better lawyers. Rule of law? Ha, my ass! I like what Nick just quoted - "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

info
info

As long as the US legal system allows to patent everything and specialised courts drive this to unimaginable extents in the best interests of those who made out of this, we can only hope that higher levels of jurisdiction are more sensible that those making this an art to create money on the backs of inventors, developers and other creative individuals. Fortunately, there are jurisdictions who do not allow for such deverlopments.

tsvenson
tsvenson

What seems to be forgotten about this is that it is about US patents. Yes, there are similar courtroom battles going on elsewhere in the world, but here in Europe it is still not possible to patent a square with rounded corners. Lets pray it never will. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if manufacturers increasingly are discussing not to launch new products on the US market, just to avoid these problems. When that start to happen, I envision that a large part of those consumers that now applaud this ruling will wake up and realize that it in reality meant the total opposite to what they been fooled to believe. However, this is also going to have an increasing impact on the US economy. Non US-companies will retreat from the US market, it simply wont be economically worth the patent suing risk. US companies will start looking into move outside. Result is that only the patent waving companies will be left and initially sheering that they have won the battle. But who will then be able to buy their products on the home market when the economy is collapsing? In this case the grass IS greener outside the US borders... ...at least as long as we fight these idiotic patent being possible in our own backyards.

realvarezm
realvarezm

and we will have enough lawyers untill the stench reaches the heavens! this sue culture and the patent BS will sunk USA behind India and China mark my words

janitorman
janitorman

and everyone will stop buying Apple products because they're "trendy" or whatever. And, as one poster mentioned, why doesn't Samsung simply stop supplying Apple with components to build the iPad or whatever device they've stolen lately from others. Open up and iPad and you'll find Samsung. Open up a Samsung, and you'll find.. Samsung. Hmm maybe Apple should have sued Samsung for using Samsung components in their own devices? OR here's a novel idea, maybe Samsung could raise the price of the components they supply Apple by, say 1000% to make up the money they'll have to pay that idiot company that brought a frivolous lawsuit against them. The Apple fanboys certainly won't mind paying that, and the rest of us can buy the generic Samsung devices for a fraction of the cost that way! Anyway, the backlash is, that any thinking being will never buy another Apple product, EVER again. Oops sorry, I didn't mean to imply Apple fanboys aren't thinking beings.

rigvinod
rigvinod

Mahatma Gandhi showed how 'laws' created by the rich and powerful to further their interest can be broken by masses non-violently. Suggest such a mass movement to puncture the questionable rulings of courts. Some time back there was a story going around in India that some multi-national companies (MNC) had patented turmeric and neem and that nobody would be able to grow these in India anymore. Some Indian organizations then spent lot of money on lawyers in those foreign countries trying to 'protect' the traditional knowledge. Little did we think of Mahatma Gandhi's advice. We should have simply ignored these news and carried on with the cultivation of neem and turmeric. Let them try prosecuting the millions of turmeric and neem cultivators. vinod kumar mumbai

larrythethird
larrythethird

Most people cannot understand what is going on with technical questions, such as patent interpretation. This cannot be a jury of their peers unless the entire jury is either lawyers, engineers or technicians. A truck driver or a banker or a corporate vice president has very little idea of how all this technology fits together. Somebody else makes it all work for them. Those who do make it all work should have been the people sitting on that jury. Apple has never really invented anything. MP3? No. That was The Fraunhofer Institut in Germany. The GUI. No. That was the good old California State University system, specifically Stanford. Xerox invented the modern computer icons two years before Apple used them. The entire history of Apple is just a documentation of stealing ideas and claiming them for one's self.

mtuppen
mtuppen

I'm not totally convinced this decison will affect open source like the author is saying but is most definitely setting a rediculous precendent. I am convinced this decision should be overturned. This kind of anti-competitive behaviour from Apple should not be tolerated.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I don't think that Jury was qualified to judge that case, clearly they have NO concept whatsoever of what a metaphor is ... this ruling not only changes the landscape for opensource, it changes the landscape for ALL coding ... if you take this decision into other fields of invention, this would be the equivalent of saying that only 1 manufacturer owns the rights to put doors, wheels, a steering wheel, and an engine inside a car, and everyone else has to figure out some other way... it is stupid beyond stupid

hwelte791
hwelte791

If you're not happy with the judgment, stop buying Apple product.

jag022054
jag022054

Consumers don't care about these issues. Getting a small part of the public to care about dolphins is hard enough. Getting a teenager/young adult to give intelectual property laws any thought isn't going to happen. You might get people to care about the workers at FoxComm, but I am not certain that the supply chain for hardware running open source is any better. Somehow a compelling and selfish reason for liking open source has to grab the imagination of the consuming public.

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

Patenting software metaphors, and product styling is worse than a company being able to patent my genome if they should map it. But this is what you should expect when you elect millionaire lawyers to political office. I can see that Samsung might not be able to get patents on its products, but why could Apple? Apple didn't invent or introduce the touchscreen, the rectangle, the glass panel, or any of the electronics. Dropping, dragging and docking were features of software years before Apple made its first phone or tablet. Put aside the telephone label. The iPhone and iPad are just small computers with wireless capability. Paramont Pictures popularized these concepts in the 1960's and 70's, though they had been around in scifi books for decades. Thus the concepts were already obvious to the entire communications industry, and inevitable once components became small enough before Apple introduced the macintosh. All it will take to bring down Apple, is someone de-compiling their code and showing that it uses open source code within its software construction, patenting it in violation of the conditions of use. "35 U.S.C. 103 Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter. (a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made."

dataguypt
dataguypt

The only way of stopping this disgusting use of the patent system to destroy innovation is to NOT BUY APPLE. It's all glossy repairable trash. Don't buy it.

bmullan
bmullan

I think Apple has to tread lightly with Open Source since from what I understand much of iOS was originated from the Open Source BSD project.

whizzo944
whizzo944

Looks as if Apple has pulled off a major coup over Samsung, is this anything to do with the court being in the U.S. or the jury not fully understanding the technicalities of the arguments? Why don't Samsung just say " We're not going to supply any more chips to Apple" Maybe Apple would become a LOT more reasonable if Samsung did this? Personally, this means that I will never, ever, buy an Apple product.

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

...but please learn the difference between "effect" and "affect".

rindi1
rindi1

The location was in California. All the jury you'll find there will favor apple and so this result is the logical outcome. Had it been held at a neutral place the outcome would have been different. Even the lawsuit in Korea was more neutral, where both companies came out at least partly guilty. Also, juries are something of the past that should long ago have been banned from all courts. You need people with common sense and who know something of the issues at hand to decide on such cases, and not a bunch of probably mostly illiterates.

DuarTech
DuarTech

Where did apple get its OS from originally?

ktask
ktask

Apple has won it's suit vs Samsung and will seek to ban import of certain models of phones. Google bought Motorola Mobility and patents. Motorola Mobility unit said it filed a new patent-infringement case against Apple Inc. (AAPL) claiming that features on some Apple devices, including the Siri voice-recognition program, infringe its patents. The case seeks a ban on U.S. imports of devices including the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. Apple’s products are made in Asia. Snowballs chance IMHO, but who knows!

opcom
opcom

heh. The attitude of it all goes along with past behavior i.e. Steve Jobs's shrieking at people he was angry with, and the corporate arrogance and greed. It could have been any company, it just happened to be Apple. Steve Jobs is gone, no more unique ideas. Now the cash flow will be by suing. Will Apple next sue the heavens for shining the sun on the display?

tech
tech

IP law has gotten so ridiculous that it doesn't matter if it is open source, closed source, or just a thought in your brain, I am certain it infringes someone and you will be sued for it. IP in general is a antiquated idea who's time has past. IP only slows and stifles innovation at this point, which is the opposite of what it was intended to do. IP is used as a safe harbor. No longer does an idea have to be unique and non-obvious, it is really sad. One day, and that day may come sooner than people think, the system will fall under it's own weight. In the Smartphone arena the showdown is coming, and it is likely to be between Google and Apple. Google bought Motorola for the patents, but that also gives them production facilities, so while Samsung and the rest of the Android makers could cow to Apple. Google probably will not and will be in the same position Microsoft is trying for. The position of manufacturing the hardware, developing the software and marketing the device. The difference is Android has like 60% market share while Microsoft has like 3%. But Google is no Samsung, and will fight because it has a lot to lose (access to all your tracking data). That will be an interesting fight, one that Apple obviously wants to avoid. So does Microsoft, that is why they are 'licensing' protection from infringement lawsuits, despite never having actually even fought the fight to prove there is infringement. I have owned an Apple iPhone (3GS), I will NEVER buy another Apple device, not for me, my family, or my workplace. Good luck with that Apple, let's see how it works out for you in the long haul.

Chinook70
Chinook70

You are right on when you speak about the Star Trek issue. They were a long time ahead and quite frankly it is very well provable that they were, it was on screen! Samsung should rally entities like this to return fire on Apple for their infringement. Apple has a long history of stealing from others. Took from Xerox and MIT's Project Athena and miraculously has won several lawsuits over it. What they fail to recognize is that all these lawsuits really do is to stifle creativity and actually retard improvement in the UI.

dl.wright
dl.wright

I had a discussion with friends (who are HUGE Apple fans) about this over the weekend. It was their opinion the the law suit was about the hardware and not the software. If it was software related, wouldn't Apple's lawsuit be against Google? This should not in any way be construed as support the [s] satin's [/s] Apple's position. I do not own any Apple devices and don't like Apple devices. Some blame also needs to be pointed at the US Patent office for granting patents on IP that should be obvious to anybody. Hey, wait. I need to get in on this action. I used to be an electrical engineer and designed machines with "Start" buttons before MS put one in Windows. Where is my lawyer's number again .....

bikingbill
bikingbill

I don't blame Apple - or any other company - for defending their patents. They would in fact be neglecting their duties to their shareholders if they didn't do so. What I fail to understand is why many of these patents were granted in the first place. I think the US legislature needs to take a long hard look at US patent law, and re-consider the meaning of the word "invention".

info
info

Sorry, but I cannot follow you. Software patents and cases such as Apple vs. Samsung are not a plot by lawyers united against the rest of the world to get rich over controlling and exploiting the issue. It is all about business ethics and as long as corporate management is only rated by the financial industry on the basis of who makes most from as little capital input as possible, cases like this will continue and come up with other players and lawyers will be invited and paid by the corporate management to help them making the most out of this situation. Companies managed but under such considerations really are the sitting ducks, as they are very easy targets for financial investors and speculation and will quickly go down in the wake of innovation, which is not a financial service and not governed by the respective industry.

emenau
emenau

That's a bit expensive.... How about a three to five teenagers bench? Less expensive and 100 times more common sense and technical insight.

Slayer_
Slayer_

The fact that there are any cloud hosting services in the US is proof of corporate stupidity. With their laws the government can take your data at any time and actually try and arrest you across borders.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

open to abuse, but they carry no weight outside the USA. The current Apple - Samsung case is a classic. The same violation of patent laws had cases in the USA, Korea, and the UK. The USA one ruled in favour of Apple for everything, while the Korean and UK ones ruled in favour of Samsung for all but one. The claims and argument were the same in all countries, yet two very different results.

rindi1
rindi1

How can I stop buying apple products when I have never bought apple products?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Consumers may very well find the Courts Ordering the removal from sale of the Kinect is something that they care about. If the Courts Ruling was about Gestures used on a Touch Screen what's so different about using a similar type of Gesture to navigate a computer system without the need for a Touchscreen through the Kinect type interface? Surely after all the Kinect Developers have looked at the gestures used on Smart Phone type devices to generate the code for their device. ;) Col

Nitramd
Nitramd

Apple have compromised repairability for style, recently they have appear to have had an extensive lean engineering exercise to cut parts count to streamline production & so cut costs. This appears to be achieved by soldering & bonding major components like ram, screens, batteries & hard drives in place, making upgrade & local repair difficult/ impossible, driving you back to the Apple store where you are deprived of its use for 2 weeks + a bill, or they say its your liability & offer to sell you another! It would be Ok if the new manufacture reduced prices, extended warranty in scope & time, does it? Nope just increases Apples profits at our expense, small compensation for high recyclability! If a manufacturer produces in a way that is in conflict to ones personal values, preserve your integrity, send a small message back by buying one that, does. Saddly most only know & consider the immediate price, and choose to ignore the true cost. If this is their attitude with competition, what is it going to be like if they litigate all others out of the market, and back to a relatively cosy relationship with MS?

Slayer_
Slayer_

If that's true, than of course only illiterates would be allowed.

gscratchtr
gscratchtr

Sun Microsystems could sue God...

bobc4012
bobc4012

Ever used to read Dick Tracy (when Chest Gould created it). Wrist radios followed by wrist TV, the "wrist computer", the "Wrist Genee" (an I-Phone) and other innovations created by eccentric millionaire (billionaire), Diet Smith, "He who controls magnetism, controls the world.".

Nitramd
Nitramd

The patents Samsung "violated" are : 381. Drag, twist, rotate, pinch & zoom. 915. Scroll with one finger & I believe bounce back. 163. Tap to zoom. 305. Icon grid. 667 & 087. External appearance including the infamous rounded corner rectangle. Samsung's patents that Apple violated included the email, multitasking & 3g, All of which were rejected as industrial standards, ( as per other international court judgments). I hope this is accurate & clarifies , there is another Patent which Samsung was cleared on. Sorry but I would like to use this as an opportunity to add my feelings & impressions from a UK perspective of the trial to the discussion. I do not blame Apple for defending its IP, this is business, but it is the US patent office who should be sued for holding it self & US legal system up to international ridicule& anger for issuing to the trivial & bleeding obvious. There is also a growing suspicion of trade protectionism here, Apple is obviously important to the US economy ( despite unfounded speculation & clearly mistaken (legal) tax evasion through clever accountancy showing lower than expected profits (I couldn't possibly say that they could hive it to off shore tax havens rather than overseas industrial development or deprive the home economy of revenue, no never) & Wall Street (add this to distrusted Global legislative "security"rules governing ITAR & Dollar trade transactions) . They should be reminded, by policy reform, that patents are primarily there to encourage innovation, not for other goals that stifle development & waste resources on litigation. It sadly looks as if Apple was intimidated by a loss of innovative capacity, so had to resort to litiation (again). To ensure a win, they chose a federal court as close to home as possible in Silicon Valley & within 10 miles. Samsung really were the underdog from the start, since the impression is, that Steve Jobs seams to be regarded in the US, as the patron saint of innovation & design, since he apparently single handily, changed the computer world & then went on to do the same to the mobile one. Add to this jurors tend to side with the patent holders & award higher damages, Its a foreign company vs local one in tough economic times. Jurors were given an unmanageable task of 100 pages of instructions by the judge, that would tax most legal students to assimilate in time given. So an emotive rather rational verdict likely ( who could blame them, I'm sure they did their level best not too and do not doubt or question their integrity in such difficult circumstances) Was the result in any real doubt! But was this really fair or even justice? Samsung still may console itself with an appeal & that $1 billion isn't bad for use & chance to develop the patents that Apple wouldn't let them use if they had asked for a licensing deal first off, (a bargain compared to MS Skype, & Google's Motorola deals! & the rumored $30-50/unit Apple subsequently asked for) I wonder if Apple have really considered all of the consequences. Power corrupts & absolute power is even more fun! Well, hope the lack of choice & Apple tax will be as much fun as MS's, after all they who could really win from a hobbled Android! Rant over, time to batten down hatches & await incoming! No, second thoughts, beam me up Scottie. What, you can't you say, because Apples patented that as well your tablet. & my communicator they want back, oh b*ll*cks.

bobc4012
bobc4012

S/W patenting wasn't allowed until the 80s. Likewise, copyrighting S/W (much more sensible - as long as it is treated the same way as a book) wasn't allowed until the 70s.

bobc4012
bobc4012

an indentured servant - which most of the "colonists" were back in those days. They either worked to pay off their debts (which could have taken the rest of their lives) or gone to debtors prison. I guess they don't teach real history in schools anymore.

emenau
emenau

Barricade the door op an Apple store? That might stop someone else..

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the item very much like an iPad in the Star trek Next Gen and Voyager series where a small rectangular electronic pad with rounded edges and corners about the size of a paperback book was used to take data and information, it was even touch centric. Toady, instead of creating something for the show, you'd just hand them an iPad to use as a prop.

bobc4012
bobc4012

I can't disagree with most of what you wrote, but remember China has a huge stake in this too (since Apple does it mfg over there) and since China "owns" the US (finances a significant part of its debt anyway) and backs North Korea, so no reason to have a successful South Korean company. Besides Apple and Microsoft have cut a number of cross licensing deals (and who knows what other deals) and even though competitors, will still crawl into bed with each other when deemed necessary. Besides, I suspect Apple is gambling on the preponderance of negative reviews on Microsoft's Metro, that it will be a flop.

Nitramd
Nitramd

Post cold war China has drawn closer to S.Korea, finding much in common such as a rapidly growing economies to the extent of forming free trade agreements. This can be demonstrated by the $32.5 billion trade surplus S.Korea generated in 2009 with China. ( managing to ignore S Korea's long relationship with Taiwan too!) If we contrast this with N.Korea, whose hard line regime is dependent on Chinese aid & imports. With the death of Kim Jong 2 things have deteriorated, Nuclear weapon, missile development & testing, hijacking of Chinese fishing boats, has displeased Beijing so much that they have voted in sanctions on arms in the UN security council (!!!!), publicly describing N.Korea as a "Spoilt Child"& also allow N.Korean escaping refugees to stay in China or even leave. The only reason for supporting the regime is impart stability, Chinese fear a collapse if the small reforms recently introduced wet the peoples appetite, and a resulting crack down by the authorities, causing a flood of refugees, reform will be both long & difficult to manage safely. Also in the mix is the re-militarization of Japan, (from the long term perspective of such an ancient civilization, still see the atrocities exercised during the occupation by Imperial Japan in the 30's & WW2 on both countries, is still fresh in the memory, this long term view is some thing the Young Western powers often forget to consider.) With all N Korean problems, of which I have only touched on a few, and the existing healthy trade with the South, I think it will take many years of reform in the North before Beijing can see it as a viable place to invest in the manner you suggest. Agreed that Apple & MS do have a cosy x licensing deals, but if Android does have to innovate away from IOS to significantly differentiate it, then the gap in the market will be most likely filled by WP8 phones, (typical MS usual opportunistic market grab that is suspiciously convenient in timing!? ). Interesting that Samsung, Apple & MS all trade with each other, so add more wheels within wheels + pragmatism to the balancing act too!