Using iOS 6’s VIP Feature to get In-To-Empty Without Getting Bogged Down

I’ve written before about using Getting Things Done, and my Weekly Review. Like a lot of people, I have trouble leaving my email alone. A lot of us seem to feel that emails must be at least read, if not responded to, on a real-time basis. This habit can destroy our productivity, and what’s worse is that we know it. Part of the problem for me is that I have a near obsessive tendency to move “in-to-empty.” This has lead me to handle email on a near real-time basis so I have the psychological satisfaction of an empty inbox.

In is empty.

In is empty.

Another reason I’ve handled email this way is my fear of missing anything, or being perceived as unresponsive to someone I should be responding to quickly. I’ve just started a technique to help me with my email addiction.

I work predominantly on Apple devices, and during my weekly review I have started utilizing a technique to let me keep up on urgent emails, while not becoming bogged down in email and destroying my productivity. Basically, I’ve been employing iOS 6’s VIP feature in email to allow me to quickly set rules, on a weekly basis, that let me focus on the most important emails during the coming week. As I review my projects, I put anyone who is associated with an urgent matter on the VIP list, at least for the coming week. If I expect a lot of back and forth with someone, I don’t want to build in the significant delay that would result from only checking my email once or twice per day. I also update the VIP list if a new and urgent project surfaces during the week.

So far, this has helped me let go of my inbox and only get in to empty once or twice per day. At the same time I’ve been able to keep up with urgent topics and projects. A similar technique can also be employed in Outlook by setting various rules, but that may be a bit more cumbersome.

I don’t know if this is something I’ll keep doing for the long term. It will depend on how time consuming it becomes versus the productivity benefit I receive. I do believe that this will at least let me train myself to focus on those emails that require immediate action, and put off those that don’t.

What workflow techniques do you use to keep out of email?

Apple Scores a Big Jury Verdict Against Samsung, But What About an Injunction?

There are some very good summaries of the Jury verdict, and there is also a lot of speculation about what happens now that the jury found various Samsung patents infringe Apples patents and trade dress. The jury’s verdict form shows how they answered the various IP claims. In summary, all of Apple’s and Samsung’s patents (utility and design) were found valid. However, none of Samsung’s patents were infringed and the vast majority of Apples were. However, the jury form also gives a some indications of what may happen next in this case.

While a lot will be written in the next week on pending appeals and cross appeals, motions for judgement notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), and other post trial maneuvers, Judge Koh will also have to decide if she will award an injunction preventing future sales and imports of the infringing products. Injunctions are imposed as an equitable remedy by the judge, not the jury. In deciding whether or not to grant an injunction in patent cases, federal judges must apply the eBay factors, named for the 2006 eBay v. MercExchange case in which the Supreme Court clarified the factors that must be weighed. Those factors that a plaintiff must demonstrate include:

(1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury;

(2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury;

(3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and

(4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

Since that case, courts have been more reluctant to grant permanent injunctions at the end of a patent trial. One reason cited for the decline in injunctions is that the presumption of irreparable harm is dead. This case is a bit different though.

In addition to the patents infringed, Samsung was found to both infringe and dilute Apples iPhone trade dress (both registered and unregistered). The strength of Apple’s trade dress is in its distinctiveness and Apple’s continued use of it. Trade dress protection is only available so long as the trade dress serves as a source identifier for the product. If another manufacturer can sell goods that infringe or dilute Apple’s trade dress going forward, that would likely do irreparable harm to Apples trade dress rights against other parties.

In this case, there is significant overlap between the design patents and Apple’s trade dress. There is even an arguable overlap between the utility patents and trade dress as the rebounding scroll lists covered by some of the utility patents are part of the look and fee of the various iOS devices. In this unique case, Apple is in a position to argue that failing to provide a permanent injunction would pose an irreparable harm to Apples other intellectual property, namely it’s trade dress.

My personal feeling is that Apple has a better than average chance of obtaining a permanent injunction. Whether the rationale behind it will be based solely on the patents, trade dress, or a combination where the various forms of intellectual property reinforce a showing of irreparable harm will be interesting to see. Keep in mind, that while it isn’t a slam dunk, Judge Koh did show a willingness to impose a preliminary injunction early in the case.

As it stands now, Apple will file its motion and brief on August 29, Samsung will reply on or before September 12 (the rumored launch date of the iPhone 5), and a hearing before Judge Koh will be held on September 20.

UPDATED: Judge Koh, has scheduled the hearing for Decmeber 6.

In Response to Hyperbole: Apple and the “Andriod Killer” Patent

There has been a lot of discussion of a patent issued to Apple last week. U.S. Patent 8,223,134, issued to Apple on July 17, 2012, and has been called everything from an “Android Killer” to something all other smartphone makers should fear. This patent relates to the the user interface of various iOS devices. However, many people don’t realize how the exclusionary power of a patent is defined. Only the claims, those numbered paragraphs at the end of the patent, define what is protected.

Some have characterized the claims of the ‘134 patent a overly broad, but take a look at the broadest device claim:

A portable multifunction device, comprising:

a touch screen display;

one or more processors;

memory; and

one or more programs,

wherein the one or more programs are stored in the memory and configured to be executed by the one or more processors,

the one or more programs including instructions for: displaying a portion of an electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein the displayed portion of the electronic document has a vertical position in the electronic document;

displaying a vertical bar on top of the displayed portion of the electronic document, the vertical bar displayed proximate to a vertical edge of the displayed portion of the electronic document,

wherein: the vertical bar has a vertical position on top of the displayed portion of the electronic document that corresponds to the vertical position in the electronic document of the displayed portion of the electronic document; and

the vertical bar is not a scroll bar;

detecting a movement of an object in a direction on the displayed portion of the electronic document;

in response to detecting the movement: scrolling the electronic document displayed on the touch screen display in the direction of movement of the object so that a new portion of the electronic document is displayed,

moving the vertical bar to a new vertical position such that the new vertical position corresponds to the vertical position in the electronic document of the displayed new portion of the electronic document, and

maintaining the vertical bar proximate to the vertical edge of the displayed portion of the electronic document; and

in response to a predetermined condition being met, ceasing to display the vertical bar while continuing to display the displayed portion of the electronic document, wherein the displayed portion of the electronic document has a vertical extent that is less than a vertical extent of the electronic document.

The claims are actually fairly narrowly tailored to cover the iPhone and other devices non-scroll bar on list and document displays. The vertical bar must not be a scroll bar; it mus be imposed over the image being displayed; it must change its position as the image is moved vertically by the user (who must be moving the image via natural scrolling); the vertical bar must stop being displayed, i.e., after a preset time with no movement on the screen. All of these conditions must be met by another device’s UI before it can infringe this claim. Omitting any of them will avoid literal infringement.

I realize it’s not as exciting as claiming that the patent will shut down all competition in smartphones, but it won’t.

I personally think this shows the value of patents in this area. What Apple has done with these claims is to provide itself with some protection against direct copying of these features of its UI. Other companies still have a lot of room to develop competing systems and devices, even better ones. These patents help prevent knockoffs from eliminating the incentive to create while still leaving the door open to new competition. In the end, consumers win.

New Microsoft Tablet an ‘iPad Killer’?

I first heard about this from Mashable.  Apparently, Microsoft is jumping into the tablet market with its own device that is being billed as an “iPad Killer.” It’s not the first time they’ve made a device. After all, the X-box has been a big success. But the tablet market is very different from the game console market, and that’s because Apple has really shaped the market around a concept: the Apple Ecosystem.

Apple’s mobile products (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) run iOS which is exceptionally user friendly and makes it possible to move content across devices.  With the soon to be released OS X Mountain Lion, iCloud will be much more powerful and user friendly and more seamlessly link the Mac on your desk to the mobile devices that are always with you. All this creates inertia for users, and while some can be persuaded to move to a new device, it will be harder to convince them to leave the entire Ecosystem behind.

Microsoft will need to integrate its tablet with smart phones and cloud services to effectively compete. Even then, it may be difficult to overcome the inertia that exists. However, it’s not impossible.

Some studies suggest that Windows phones may overtake iOS by 2016.  A competitive tablet and Microsoft ecosystem could accelerate adoption. Apple has left the door open to a competing ecosystem by releasing iCloud with shortcomings that have been lamented by many Apple fans. While much of the functionality that would make iCloud a terrific service is technically present, only power users are able to make it reach its potential. iCloud will have to become more accessible and seamless from the user’s perspective. Apple’s best strategy in competing with the soon to come Microsoft tablet may not be to build an ever better iPad, but to build a better iCloud.

In any event, this won’t be a tablet war. This will be a battle of ecosystems and the winners will be consumers who will see ever improving platforms vying for supremacy.