The Walkman That Samsung Claims ‘Inspired’ the iPhone

The Walkman That Samsung Claims ‘Inspired’ the iPhone

The trial between Samsung and Apple has offered plenty of drama, as well as some unique insights into the design process at Apple, and the early development of the iPhone and iPad. It’s also played host to its fair share of arguments from both sides.

Apple is holding strong to their position that Samsung has repeatedly stolen their designs, and has presented a fair amount of evidence to support that. Samsung, on the other hand, refutes that claim, and even goes so far as to suggest that Apple borrowed heavily from Sony’s design ideas, making them just as bad as they claim Samsung is.

The object of their argument is a brief interview with two of Sony’s designers, as well as some of Apple’s early sketches. Phillip Elmer-Dewitt of Fortune (via Daring Fireball)has now cast some interesting light on the situation. Elmer-Dewitt notes, as we suggested when we covered the story, that the interview was about how Sony was inspired by Apple – not the other way around.

Also of note is that the topic of the interview was the Walkman NW-A1200, pictured above, which quite clearly bears almost no resemblance to the iPhone at all. It’s not a phone, and the design is anything but Apple-like.

There are a lot of problems with [Samsung’s] story, starting with the fact Noshibori’s design didn’t change the course of the iPhone project, and he never said it did. Apple has released sketches of a near-final iPhone design  that pre-date his CAD drawings by almost a year.

The article that was circulated internally at Apple, was a 2006 Businessweek interview with the designers of  the [Sony] product. It was not a phone at all, but a Walkman — the NW-A1200 — that according to Businessweek represented for Sony a new, cleaner, less cluttered design aesthetic. And what inspired that new aesthetic? Of all things, according to the Sony designers, an Apple iPod.

It would appear that Samsung’s argument actually works against them once all the facts are assembled – and it’s particularly convenient that Samsung didn’t bother to bring any of those facts to the court’s attention. A desperate tactic for a desperate company.

In Elmer-Dewitt’s words, “Apple wasn’t copying Sony, dear bloggers. Sony was copying Apple.”