When it comes to copying, Samsung is guilty until proven innocent

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 19, 2013

From The News Desk

I'm surprised no one has tried to prove that Apple discovered fire, given how often people struggle to show that the Cupertino-based company pioneered a product or category. This is often at the expense of Samsung, which copied Apple's product designs and is now considered forever guilty in the court of public opinion. Apple invented everything, Samsung copied it, and that's that.

You can watch this play out today with the announcement that Samsung is developing a smartwatch. Many outlets, including Engadget, Bloomberg (which broke the news), Reuters, The Verge, and TechCrunch have positioned Samsung's efforts as an attempt to match Apple, which is said to be launching its own smartwatch this year. The only problem: Samsung has been building smartwatches for over a decade.

Neither Reuters nor Bloomberg mention Samsung's history developing smartwatches in their reports, but Bloomberg does quote Oracle Investment Research's Laurence Balter as saying that Apple is "trailblazing" the smartwatch category. Once again Apple is leading the race in narrative, if not in fact.

Earlier coverage of Apple's smartwatch provides nary a mention of Samsung's efforts. I'm guilty of this myself -- I've written about Apple's smartwatch a few times without noting that Samsung has been developing similar (philosophically, anyway) products longer than the modern smartphone has been on the market. I shall wear my dunce cap with the appropriate amount of shame.

Hell, both Apple and Samsung could be considered late to the smartwatch trend, given the release of Kickstarter darling Pebble and the COOKOO smartwatch. Guoke is developing its Bambook smartwatch, which will run on Mozilla's Firefox OS.

The smartwatch market isn't even here and it looks like the tablet market. Tablets were sold before Apple's iPad debut, yet the product is often cited as "the" tablet, because Apple was the first company to develop, market, and sell a tablet computer on a large scale.

Ditto with the iPhone, which is credited as the leading force in modern smartphones. Smartphones didn't spring into existence in 2007 -- Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices were sold before the iPhone's debut. Apple ushered in the era of touch-screen devices with the iPhone, but it didn't invent the smartphone.

That's Apple's modus operandiFind a product category that others have worked with but failed to perfect, develop something better, and convince consumers that it's something they need to have in their lives. Everyone remembers the iPhone, iPod, and iPad -- few remember the products that came before them.

With smartwatches, as with the tablet and the smartphone, it seems that Apple will be credited with creating a new product category. It doesn't matter how many devices preceded its entrance into the market, or how many years the company ignored the form factor. Apple invented it, damn it!

Never mind Samsung, that scoundrel. It doesn't matter that it spent years shipping smartwatches before Apple was even rumored to be entering the market. When the device is released it will probably be accused of being a mere copy of Apple's product, a second-rate company's attempt to emulate the king of computing. Facts don't matter.