So a German court has suspended Apple's injunction preventing Samsung selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet PC. In principle, and for a short while at least, the 10in Tab is back. For how long, it's impossible to say.
Apple vs Samsung: Tab wars
It's also difficult to assess the impact of Apple's response to Samsung's iPad challenger, and to work out what Apple gains from it, if anything. But that's not going to stop me trying.
We know the history. For years Microsoft told us that Tablets were the future, but no-one listened until Apple came along and released the iPad, simultaneously stimulating and destroying the market. (This was particularly annoying for Microsoft, given that the iPad hit the market just a few months after the now infamous CES keynote in which Steve Ballmer demonstrated an HP 'slate PC' running Windows. That tablet was never released. It may never have existed.)
Eagle-eyed reader HildyJ spotted my schoolboy error here. Of course the Slate was released in the US, just not in the UK. See the comments below for more.
Despite a staggering groundswell of rumour and counter-rumour about the 'i-Slate', details of the iPad were kept under wraps until Steve Jobs launched it early in 2010. But here's the thing: Apple doesn't make anything. Apple designs hardware (to within an inch of its life), and then hires manufacturers to source components and put the devices together. This is why all those 'suicide at the Apple factory' stories were misleading. There's no such thing as an Apple factory.
People in the components and manufacturing industry protect the privacy of their clients. How could they not? So it's not surprising that even as the iPad was being built, confirmed details didn't leak. But that's not to say that components makers didn't know exactly what was going on.
Interesting fact: Samsung is one of the biggest components makers in the world. How involved Samsung is in the manufacture of the iPad, or any Apple product, is a matter for conjecture. I once, naively, asked a junior Samsung marketer if Samsung (the world's biggest display maker) made the screen for the original Macbook Air. Within minutes I was on the phone to a very pleasant, very senior, Samsung PR person telling me, very pleasantly, that Samsung never comments on such things.
No matter. Samsung and Apple have a long and interdependent relationship, and upon the launch of the 10in Galaxy Tab, Apple cried foul, saying that Samsung had copied the iPad and instigating the court proceedings that bring us to our current impasse.
You and I will never know for sure whether Samsung copied Apple's iPad plans. We can be certain that Samsung wouldn't be making the Tab if Apple had never launched the iPad, but the same is true of all Android tablet PCs, as well as the PlayBook and the TouchPad. Just as the Asus Eee PC spawned a thousand immitators, so too the iPad.
Apple dominates the tablet market, but one product does not a market make. Competition stimulates sales, and Apple's actions in the face of a rival make it look scared of a fight. And it makes no sense, I've used a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and it is no iPad.
Stealing patented ideas is clearly plain wrong, and I can only assume that Apple knows it has been wronged and is acting appropriately. But by moving to ban the Galaxy Tab Apple is losing on three counts. On the one hand it's destroying a valuable collaborative relationship. More importantly, it's sending out a message to the world that the Tab is a threat to the iPad. And finally, using the courts to fight off a rival just looks wrong. What happened to Apple's famed belief in the strength of its innovation, design and products?