Did Apple goof on name?

Apple has a reputation for introducing "revolutionary" products, but that’s not what many in the telecom/media industry are calling the iPad. Phrases like “disappointing,” “I’ll need to jailbreak it,” “stunted,” “handcuffed,” and other less-than-complimentary words were common.

Of the couple dozen stories I’ve read, they break equally across two lines: Either you love Apple products or you don’t care so much. The arstechnica.com site posted a series of briefs by several of its writers along with a comparison table of features supported by the iPad, smartphones and soon-to-be-released tablet-type products. The table indicates that while Apple may claim the iPad is “first,” significant features common to other products are missing from its latest introduction.

One aspect that’s not received a lot of notice is the device’s screen aspect ratio. The iPad has a 9.7in screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Unless you’re planning on watching only decade or older movies, you’re going to be forced to view the new releases in less than full-screen size. The image to the left illustrates how various aspect ratios will be displayed on the iPad.

Perhaps more troublesome for Apple is that it does not own the trademark for the term iPad. That little gem is claimed by Fujitsu. Fujitsu claims first it launched a multimedia device called the iPad back in 2002.

Fujitsu said its U.S. subsidiary in 2002 launched the iPad as a handheld multimedia device with a 3.5in screen. The device was used for inventory applications, to scan bar codes and manage other business tasks. The Fujitsu iPad uses an Intel processor, a Microsoft operating system and supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. (See the photo of the Fujitsu iPad to the right.)

Fujitsu spokesman, Masao Sakamoto in Tokyo, said that the company filed a trademark application for the iPad name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in 2003, which is still pending and not yet registered. If that’s not enough to cause Apple lawyers indigestion, other companies also claim products with the identical name. Those products include small engines and bra inserts.

The German company Siemens uses the trademark iPad for some of its small engines and motors.

The Swiss-based microchip maker STMicroelectronics has reportedly registered IPAD, short for "Integrated Passive and Active Devices." OK, maybe acronyms don’t count, but then I’m not an expensive attorney with an Apple address.

A small Canadian company Coconut Grove Pads, has been making a line of polyurethane bra inserts and shoulder pads registered as the iPad since 2007. The Markham, Ontario-based company manufactures bras under the brand name The Natural and owns the iPad trademark in the United States.

The company’s president, Hylton Karon, said while he enjoys the new publicity, his company "never made any intimation of being related to the big Apple."

In what may be a case of Apple being the copycat, the Chinese company Shenzhen Great Long Brother Industrial has created an iPad look-alike with a different name — the "P88". This device has a larger 10.7in screen, a faster Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor and 160GB spinning HD compared with the iPad’s 64GB Flash card. The device's battery life is only 1.5 hours compared with the iPad's claimed 10 hours. Said company spokesman, Huang Xiaofang, "We don't understand. Why did they make the same thing as us? We launched it earlier."

Apple has long history of trademark disputes with other companies, including one with Cisco Systems. Cisco launched its iPhone before Apple. The two companies settled the dispute in 2007, agreeing to share the name. Consumer recall on the name iPhone has got to be a billion to one in Apple’s favor on this one.

The iPad doesn’t Flash

One early and strident complaint against the new iPad was the device's lack of Adobe Flash support. Much of Web content relies on Flash for video, and not embracing such a plug-in could limit the popularity of the device in consumers' minds.

But it seems that even Apple missed the market’s desire for Adobe Flash. After the complaints about no Flash surfaced, Apple had to do a Photoshop-like fix to its own advertising materials. By Monday, Feb. 1, just days after introduction, Apple had stripped references to Flash content from its iPad marketing imagery.

At last week’s events, Apple used images of a "New York Times" Web site as example content. The problem was that one image still displayed a Flash-based travel slideshow, and a promotional video depicted a Flash-based video player.

By Monday, Apple had replaced the slideshow image with an article on Japan and the promotional clip has been altered to display a missing plug-in icon. These changes probably mean that Apple has no plans to incorporate Flash into the iPad. Apple says that Adobe Flash shortens iPhone (and hence iPad) battery life. Adobe says that without Flash support, both iPhone and iPad users will be unable to access a majority of Web-based video and games.

Will 3-D push transmission to MPEG-4?

The answer is yes, according to Motorola vice president Bob Wilson. Wilson claims in a podcast interview from EngadgetHD that a high consumer interest in 3-D will force MVPDs to move from today’s MPEG-2 to an MPEG-4 delivery platform. He bases his position on the assumption that viewers will want even higher quality 3-D than they (maybe) can enjoy today.

Wilson says the drive for 3-D delivery may force providers to switch to MPEG-4 platforms. However, this change comes with a huge price tag. Will today’s companies spend the money necessary to totally upgrade from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4? In today’s market, not likely.

Even so, the folks on the consumer space see 3-D as the coming hot technology, and many viewers claim they are ready to pony up the money for new TV sets and cable/satellite service. With new 3-D networks (ESPN/Disney, satellite) coming on line, this may pressure content providers and deliverers to bring that content into the home theatre in full 3-D quality.