Ever used a Blackberry? If you hold down a letter, it will alternate between upper and lower case until released. Many people think this is a pretty cool feature. The iPhone does auto-capitalization. However if its not right for the context used, you have to delete, shift and press the letter again. That’s like 3 keystrokes. So why doesn’t Apple make it work like the Blackberry?
The likely answer behind this question is that they can’t. It’s not that Apple is unable to reproduce the behavior in software. It’s the fact that Research In Motion has a patent on this, and many other functions. This is an unfortunate obstacle that slows innovation today. Apple owns some functions as well. One example is the bounce when you scroll all the way to the bottom.
This is an unfortunate mess for us as consumers as well as the manufacturers. The result of all of these patents is the fact that no one can actually build a device that has all of the best features. Many of the patents are tied up for 17 or 20 years. That’s a long time to wait to get the ultimate combinations of features into a device or application.
As a result of patent laws that don’t sensibly lend themselves to technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has created a site called Defend Innovation. This site outlines seven tenants that the EFF believes to be important for continued innovation. The site also allows signatures in the form of an electronic petition.
If you are one of those individuals who want it all in your technology, I recommend getting familiar with some of the challenges manufacturers and software designers have with patent laws. If you agree with the EFF in regards to Defending Innovation, I’m sure they’d appreciate the addition of your name to the list.