Aug 012012
A rare photo of Jonathan Ive inside the Apple design studio

A rare photo of Jonathan Ive inside the Apple design studio

Now that the U.S. patent infringement trial against Samsung Electronics gets underway this week, we’re getting another glimpse behind the curtain of the Apple design process.  17-year Apple design veteran Christopher Stringer described the process as a group of 16 “maniacal” individuals from around the world brainstorming at a kitchen table. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t follow a linear process: “We are always doubting. We are always questioning.”

The first day of court testimony is worth the quick read at Reuters:

The world’s most valuable technology corporation on Tuesday allowed a rare glimpse into a zealously guarded internal hardware design process that has produced some of the world’s most celebrated consumer electronics.

In a high-profile U.S. patent infringement trial against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd that began this week, it called 17-year Apple design veteran Christopher Stringer as its first witness.

Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie.

“Our role is to imagine products that don’t exist and guide them to life,” he told the jury.

Apple’s products — particularly the seminal iPhone — are held in high regard throughout the industry. The gadget that revolutionized the smartphone industry is prominently displayed in the avant-garde San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The company, which is accusing its South Korean arch-foe of stealing iPhone and iPad design and features, owes a debt to creative guru Jonathan Ive and his cadre of designers assembled from Britain, Australia, the United States, Japan, Germany over more than a decade.

Stringer said Apple’s group of 15 to 16 industrial designers — headed by the British-born and recently knighted Ive — work on all of the company’s products and dedicate time every week to discuss them, mostly at the kitchen table.

That’s where the group is “most comfortable,” he said.

Ive’s team leads works out of a large, open studio on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, with music blaring through a giant sound system and access strictly limited to a small portion of employees, according to a 2006 profile of Ive in Business Week.


Most of the team have worked side-by-side for 15 to 20 years, said Stringer, who has “hundreds” of design patents to his name.

“We have been together for an awfully long time,” Stringer said. “We are a pretty maniacal group of people. We obsess over details.” 

Even though Apple doesn’t always get it right, obsessing over details is key. And the Apple design studio? Off limits to almost everyone who works at Apple’s Cupertino campus.


Jul 022012

You may recall the very unusual case of the financier Michael Marin, who was charged with burning down his own palatial home to get out the mortgage payments. It was a bizarre scene a few years back when firefighters rushed to his house only to find him climbing down from the second floor in scuba gear.

Yes, scuba gear.

And now it takes an even stranger twist when his trial wrapped up in Phoenix the other day with a guilty verdict. As the jury’s verdict was read, he appears to reach down into his bag, then place his hands over his mouth and swallow something. A drink from a sports bottle and possibly another pill leads to a flushed face as he turns to face the audience in the court room. Within minutes, he goes into convulsions as his lawyers call for help. Medics work on him as he is rushed to the hospital where he is declared dead.

Of course, investigators are waiting for toxicology reports but from all indications, the video suggests he committed suicide upon hearing the guilty verdict. Perhaps looking at 15 years in prison was just too much to bear.

The financier, art collector, adventurer and former millionaire ends up in court, receives a guilty verdict, and then opts for suicide – ah, the life of a Wall Street banker.

May 082012

twitter logo_word bubbleTwitter filed a motion in a New York State Court to quash a court order that would force it to hand over data on Malcom Harris, an Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protester being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan. Harris, arrested for disorderly conduct during last year’s march across the Brooklyn Bridge has been pursued by the DA’s office which is requesting all his tweets over a three-month period.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union:

Law enforcement agencies—both the federal government and state and city entities—are becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to obtain information about what people are doing on the Internet. And while the individual Internet users can try to defend their rights in the rare circumstances in which they find out about the requests before their information is turned over, that may not be enough. Indeed, even though Twitter provided notice to the Twitter user in this particular case, and even though he was able to get an attorney to file a motion seeking to quash the subpoena, the court found that the Twitter user did not have legal “standing” to challenge the D.A.’s subpoena.

The Court ruling that Harris did not have legal standing puts users in the position of having to rely on private companies to protect their Constitutional rights – even in the case as with Twitter where the company explicitly states that you own your own data. As you might imagine, Harris was understandably pleased with Twitter’s latest action:

Malcom Harris Tweet

Good for Twitter, which hardly has a spotless record in this area. But where this goes is anyone’s guess. In its filing, Twitter referred to a case where the courts ruled that attaching a GPS device to someone violates the Fourth Amendment standard against unreasonable searches:

If the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement applies merely to surveillance of one’s location in public areas for 28 days, it also applies to the District Attorney’s effort to force Twitter to produce over three months worth of a citizen’s substantive communications, regardless of whether the government alleges those communications are public or private. (from Mashable)

However, in a world where technology use is unevenly distributed and society’s understanding of it often borders on the dysfunctional, one would not be surprised to see the Court uphold the District Attorney’s position. That will send it to a higher court where, hopefully, commonsense and an understanding of liberty and individual rights in the digital age will overturn the decision. If the State can demand to see your communication with others – which you don’t even have in your possession by the time the demand is made – we are in trouble, indeed.