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Tech Week Ahead: Apple And Samsung Battle In Court


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


CORNISH: First off, the week ahead in tech. And today, we get a twofer with NPR's Steve Henn and Laura Sydell. Welcome to you both.



CORNISH: A big trial started today in San Jose. Apple and Samsung are facing off over smartphone patents in federal court. Laura, let's start with you. What's it all about?

SYDELL: Ah, yes. Some might say this Steve Job's revenge. In his biography, he told Walter Issacson that he was going to go thermonuclear on Google. And Samsung has numerous phones and tablet computers that run Google's Android software. Now, Samsung sells more smartphones than any company, including Apple, and Jobs felt that they had ripped off Apple's ideas.

CORNISH: Well, specifically, what kind of ideas are we talking about?

SYDELL: Well, I looked at a recent Apple filing, and they showed pictures of Samsung phones before and after the introduction of the iPhone. Now, before the iPhone, they had square edges and sometimes they had keyboards. And after the iPhone, they had touch screens and kind of nice, rounded rectangular edges. And Apple is saying it has patents on that stuff.

CORNISH: So will Apple's patents protect them?

SYDELL: I think there are a lot of people who would say that Apple may have made many of these ideas popular but that they weren't really patentable. Meanwhile, the hundreds of millions of dollars they're spending on the suit will probably now be in the price of your cell phone.

CORNISH: So, Steve, I want to turn to you about the other about big tech story this week. It's half a world away from Silicon Valley in London in the Olympics. Now, NBC and broadcasters around the world are making a huge push to make this the first digital Olympics. What exactly does that mean?

HENN: Well, Google and YouTube are streaming the Olympics to - live to parts of Africa and Asia that really haven't had a lot of programming before. NBC is doing something similar with thousands of hours of live programming online now. So if you're a cable subscriber here in the U.S., you can sign up and watch on your smartphone, your tablet or your laptop.

CORNISH: So we're a few days in. How is it going?

HENN: Well, you know, I actually got cable for these games, and there have been glitches. I was traveling during the opening ceremonies, and my wife was trying to sign on at home to watch online. And they're supposed to have a system setup that let's you do that automatically, but it wasn't working. So I was at a hacker conference and got a text from her asking for me to send her - my Social Security number. You know, that's not something I was going to do surrounded by hackers on a wireless network.


HENN: So I got into a huge amount of trouble with her. And, you know, I think lots of people have had experiences that have just been kind of frustrating.

CORNISH: Yeah. I've seen on Twitter the #NBCFail. I don't know, Laura. Is this a case of NBC getting ahead of itself with the technology here?

SYDELL: I think they're not quite ready for it. And I think they still want people to go and watch it on TV because that's where the majority of their money is going to come from. And so, things - for example, they broadcast the opening ceremonies on television, but if you go online, you can't see any of it or just these tiny, little snippets. And I think that really annoyed a lot of people.

CORNISH: Now, the other social media story that caught my attention, the Twitter protests launched by a number of track and field athletes themselves. Steve, what's that about?

HENN: Well, yeah. It's really interesting. Yesterday, dozens of athletes posted on Twitter about a rule that forbids them from mentioning or even thanking their sponsors online and social media during these games. Olympic sponsors, companies, big companies like Visa, MasterCard and Coke, pay huge sums to the Olympic Committee to use athletes' images in their ads during the games.

But this year, the IOC issued a new rule that forbids the athletes themselves from even tweeting about the people who actually supported their training. You know, and for track and field athletes, especially, this is incredibly costly. This is the one time every four years where the world is paying attention to their sport. And if they can't mention the companies that support them, it interferes with their ability to train and make a living. So, you know, its gaining some attention right now.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Steve Henn. Thanks so much, Steve.

HENN: Thank you.

CORNISH: And Laura Sydell. Thank you, Laura.

SYDELL: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.