THE BROWSER: Truth and rumors from the tech world
Samsung copies Microsoft, Apple designs
The South Korean electronics giant nicked icons from other software for use on its cell phones. Plus: Could new laptop have Apple execs on the run?
By Owen Thomas, Business 2.0 Magazine online editor and Oliver Ryan, Fortune reporter

SAN FRANCISCO (Business 2.0 Magazine) - South Korean newspapers are reporting that Samsung Electronics stole icons from Apple and Microsoft to create the user interface of its latest cell phones. Samsung's first response was to tell some Korean media outlets that the designs were "inspired" by other technology companies' products. Sure, if by "inspired" Samsung meant copied pixel for pixel, as postings on a Korean-language Mac bulletin board showed. A Samsung design executive later conceded that mistakes were made, and Samsung recalled its Skin phones from stores in South Korea, the only market in which it was on sale, and offered buyers downloadable updates to replace the offending graphics.

Apple execs flee in advance of new MacBook

Google's Wi-Fi plans falter
Higher network costs revealed in a test could dash plans for free Wi-Fi. Plus: Microsoft, Qualcomm kiss and make up. (more)

Conspiracy theorists might note that the latest report of an Apple executive's departure comes right before the Mac and iPod maker is expectedto introduce a new MacBook laptop. Could the new model -- a replacement for the low-end iBook -- be such a disappointment that it's driving managers like Apple (Research) general counsel Nancy Heinen away? Actually, there's a much simpler explanation for the departures: stock options. Most of the departing executives joined Apple nearly a decade ago, when the company acquired Next Software in the deal that brought co-founder Steve Jobs back to the company. And Apple shares have seen a tremendous run-up over the last four years. The typical vesting period of a stock-option grant? Four years. The typical expiration period? Ten years. For longtime Apple executives, there's never been a better time to cash out.

AOL may shut down Florida call center

With fewer subscribers to handle, the AOL customer-service representative may be this era's Maytag repairman. Hence the latest rumor from Gizmodo that AOL (which, like, is owned by Time Warner (Research)) is shutting down a 1,200-person call center in Jacksonville, Fla. The online service is also reportedly scaling back its direct-marketing mailings of CDs offering free trials. Gizmodo points out the obvious connection between subscriber losses and lighter call-center workloads, but readers are more enthusiastic about the prospect of fewer AOL CDs. Writes one optimistic poster: "Please, God, let it be so."

SAP, Microsoft link up software

Working at the pace you'd expect from two sclerotic giants, Microsoft (Research) and SAP (Research) lumbered into the market Friday with a new jointly developed product. The move comes two years after the companies broke off tentative merger talks. Called Duet, and scheduled for release in June, the $125 software integrates user-friendly Microsoft Office applications like Outlook and Excel with SAP's high-powered business software. CRN describes the software as "the product of an unusual -- and uneasy -- alliance between Goliaths," saying that both companies hope the software will secure their lock on corporate accounts against the threat from competitors like Oracle (Research). If it took the companies so long to develop such minor integration tools, imagine how long it would have actually taken them to merge. Top of page

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