by liberal japonicus
Something a bit off of the politics talk. I'm a mac user, but I wanted to give a different perspective to the Apple-Samsung decision and maybe talk about something other than politics. As usual, the thread is also for everyone who wants to explain why the patent system sucks, why Apple is the best/worst thing since TV dinners, why Samsung was screwed/got their just desserts or thought about technology and localization.
Though this has been chipped away a bit by the ability to purchase things online, if you go to a place that sells electronic appliances in Japan, you'd be surprised at the variety and the range of features, available only for the Japanese market. Because Japanese consumers were willing to pay more, they became a test market where features were tried out, and the best ones were then adopted into the export versions. During the era of Japan as #1, the US made numerous attempts to lower trade barriers. While trade barriers were (and still are) part of the problem, they weren't everything, and US manufacturers seemed certain that if Japanese would just be able to buy their stuff, they would start ringing in the profits. It was tempting, you look at something like a 100 dollar cantaloupe, and you figure you can ship all your cantaloupes to Japan, you are going to be rich.
It seems to me that Apple is adopting a similar strategy that many Japanese companies adopted, which is to make its home market the place where it experiments and then pushes the best innovations out to the larger market. While Japanese companies used trade barriers and an appeal to Japanese aesthetics and cultural differences to maintain the home market as a place to experiment, Apple utilizes the patent system and a vertically integrated market, along with the enthusiam of Mac users to do the same. This is why discussing this in terms of the worldwide mobile share of the market misses the point. Apple is defending its backyard.
Now, basically, most foreign companies that has moved onto the world market have done this, but for US companies, they tend not to, on the assumption that if it is good enough for the US, it is good enough for the rest of the world. This is not to say that US companies pay no attention to the localized market, but ones that do are more the exception than the rule.
I think it does give a bit of a different perspective on this case. It also explains why they fought Samsung tooth and nail in California, but have not lifted a finger in China to protect patents.
I'm also wondering which Japanese company trajectory Apple will end up following. Sony became so enamoured with what they did that they thought of themselves as sui generis and ended up taking for granted that they had the Japanese market sewn up no matter what they did. Japanese PC and TV makers are being challenged by Korean and Chinese firms, and young people are more willing to buy non-Japanese brands. A poll of consumers in the Nikkei Asian Review had 50% willing to buy South Korean, Chinese or Taiwanese TVs, 42% willing to buy PCs, and 30% willing to buy smartphones. That last one may seem a bit strange because iPhone is now the best selling smartphone in Japan, but I'm not sure if Japanese view Apple as a US brand, or something more ubiquitous. This link (unfortunately undated) has the top 5 companies in a number of sectors. While the cell phone numbers look to be largely Japanese (Sony-Ericsson is a bit difficult to categorize), the 2nd and 3rd cell phone carriers both sell the iPhone.
Toyota has gotten into a bit of trouble lately and this article has some interesting points.
Most important of all, Toyota's new position as global leader appears to have influenced leaders to lose sight of a fundamental way of thinking at the company. Toyota's thinking had always been "seek quality, and volume will follow". But the looming prize of becoming the world's number one automaker led some managers to replace the company's quality first policy with a "plan for volume and achieve volume" approach. The result was to chase volume and overextend on quality - a flaw that was amplified by the multiplying effects of increasingly complex designs and rapidly increasing volumes.
This also is an interesting point:
Having spent the '90s being admired for producing the world's best quality, an arrogance born of overconfidence started to appear in certain sections of headquarters. The signs of that unfortunate arrogance are clear. The number of customer complaints received by the company is significant. And yet even as quality problems and accidents occurred, Toyota leadership clearly responded by saying, "our quality is perfect - it's the user's fault." This attitude is a severe departure from Toyota's true management philosophy and demands correction.
Even a mac fanboy can see that something like this is a possibility with Apple.