People who have commented on this thread about Apple’s patent strategy have, as Matt commented yesterday have for the most part been, “carefully sidestepping the titular subject of this post.”
Matt (is that Matt May?), did so intentionally so he could discuss the costs related to accessible web development and the difficulty that people who try to make web sites accessible have keeping up with changes in screen readers, browsers and their related DOM interfaces. I still do not believe that screen reader vendors should give a discount to developers while we blinks pay full price but, on the matter of web standards, I recommend to all web developers to test with one of the many web accessibility test tools (I have a personal preference for Ramp from Deque Systems) and, if the testing tool suggests that you comply with the standards or guidelines that you should then report any misbehaviors that occur with one or more screen readers as bugs to their vendors as it is as much the job of the AT vendors to comply with standards as it is for web developers.
Usability testing is much harder and I think Chris Westbrook’s idea of getting a web accessibility mailing list (like the one I started a couple of years ago) restarted will probably, if properly moderated and publicized, attract a pretty good group of volunteers. It could even be a good opportunity for someone who wants to dedicate a lot of time and effort to the cause to start a non-profit that collects a small “dues” from a lot of web development companies and can offer both paid and volunteer services. This could work like any of the voluntary membership driven standards and guidelines testing groups where an official “stamp of approval” can be issued to participating companies that pass both the automated compliance tests and the trials run by we “whining” blind people who are never satisfied.
Which brings us back to others who have left comments and, “the titular subject of these posts.”
Gabe, who has now posted twice on this subject wrote yesterday, “for one, Nice cheap shot you took on my writing on the last comments I posted, but in reality I didn’t expect such a childish response about obvious missed
keys due to fast typing.” If Gabe’s previous post had just missed a few keystrokes, I wouldn’t have commented on it. If you look back at his original, it missed entire words and sounded like it had been authored by a C minus ESL student. But, neither his comment on the perceived “cheap shot” nor my response to it has anything to do with the central theme of these articles about Apple and its aggressive legal tactics.
Gabe continues, “You still seem to not get that if FS really seemed to genuinly care about its customers, it would lower down its price of its cheesy broken screen
reader,” and continues with a statement about the number of bugs in the most recent JAWS beta release. I’ll leave the grammar in this sentence to others to criticize and ask, what does the price of JAWS or the number of bugs in its beta have to do with patent applications regarding self-voicing interfaces or an all-in-one user agent?
If I had been writing about the costliness or relative quality of different screen readers, Gabe’s comment would be apropos to the topic at hand. Instead, he chooses to mix Apples with Sharks and doesn’t seem to grasp the theme of this thread. Specifically, that Apple’s recent patent filings have the potential to limit choices for electronics consumers with vision impairments in the future. I thought the detailed collection of definitions of various segments of US intellectual property law might have pointed him to the subject matter I’ve been discussing but, alas, blinded by the rainbow tinted glasses, he attacks me for “cheap shots” and Freedom Scientific, a company that is not a party to this discussion at all, for their pricing strategy and bug list.
In another attack on me and, seemingly anyone who agrees with my position, Gabe continues, “also, you and all the hum drum you’re trying to drum up is the reason why companies could give a damn about blind persons, when making a product. because
you sit here and wine and wine and eat your cheese with that wine and complain about big bad apple making a super duper all in one talking product, and
just because it doesn’t have the name blind in it some where in the description, you want to buck against it and call it bad because a known blind company
didn’t make it.” Has Gabe been reading the articles I’ve been posting to Blind Confidential on this matter (there have been five prior to this one) or is he posting comments to a different blog?
If I remember correctly, at least once in each of the previous five items on this subject, I included language that said Apple’s patents could prevent any manufacturer, AT or mainstream, from adding similar functionality. I used the MPower as an example a number of times as it demonstrates published prior art to the Apple patent application on the self-voicing interface. I also mention, though, that I would like to have this functionality in products not just from Apple but from HP, Sony, Panasonic and anyone else who wants to make a multipurpose talking device. I understand reading comprehension has fallen in the US but rereading the posts I’ve made in the previous week demonstrates that I’ve repeated the idea that I would like to have these features on nearly any product I find in Best Buy or Circuit City and not just on products from AT specialty companies.
Gabe, in the quote above, also asserts that I don’t want Apple to make this product. Quite the contrary, I want Apple to make this product and applaud them for adding a self-voicing interface to the iPod. My objection is not to Apple adding these features to their products but, rather, to the patent strategy that they have taken which, if fully approved, can prevent other companies, mainstream and AT alike, from adding the same features. Gabe obviously doesn’t understand the distinction between building products and adding new features to them versus taking a hostile legal stance vis a vis patents and competition. Is this concept so hard to understand? Have I been unclear about the difference between features of products and patents afforded them?
“I laugh at you and all the other hard core wining blind babies because it is because of you why we as a whole, group of the blind, will not advance, because
istead of worrying about more important stuff about taking on employers that wouldn’t give the blind the time or day, you want to work on apple who is
just trying to make life easier for everyone, not just blind people,” Gabe says. Well, I enjoy a good laugh at my own expense. I am not, however, laughing at the Apple patent strategy which is designed to make adding new features to other products much more difficult. If they are trying to make things “easier for everyone,” they wouldn’t be assembling a legal strategy that will prevent all other portable media players, some mobile phone handsets and some PDA units from adding similar features.
Apple has a good, albeit not original, idea in adding a self-voicing interface to an iPod and gradually extending the iPod from just a media player to a multipurpose device that can act as a user agent. These six items I have written about the topic do not criticize Apple’s ideas, their features or their products (in fact, at least once, I state that VoiceOver, if it provides everything a user needs, is a highly credible screen reader at a modest cost). My criticism is of their legal strategy and their attempts to prevent other manufacturers, AT and mainstream alike, from doing the same thing and perhaps selling it at a lower price. Thus, I have been saying, perhaps in language Gabe can understand, “features good, patents bad.”
Sorry for the cheap shots. Sorry for the ad hominems that have plagued BC the past few days. I just find it difficult to comprehend how anyone who has actually read these articles cannot understand the distinction between opposing patents while not opposing the features or ideas they cover. I have been arguing in favor of promoting competition, for adding features and functionality that would make consumer products easier to use by people with vision impairments, for allowing Sony, HP, Diamond, Panasonic, Nokia and any other consumer electronics company to add the features Apple wants to hoard for themselves and for increasing the options available to we blinks.
Why can’t people understand this simple concept? Have I been writing in Sanskrit, Aramaic or some other ancient language? Has blogspot left out most of the text I’ve written or has someone hacked BC to change the content of these posts? Or, is reading comprehension in this country really as bad as this seems?
BTW: Gabe, not as a criticism but, rather, as a professional courtesy, I do recommend you get yourself a copy of or access to the online edition of “Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White. Writing in clear sentences that follow the basic rules of our language, the way other people who comment here like Joe Clark, Matt, Chris Westbrook and others do goes a long way to helping get your point across. You will find that you can express yourself in fewer words and people will take you more seriously if you can write reasonably well.