Weekend news-round up: Romney’s Orca the killer fail; is Apple past its peak?

12 Nov 2012

Former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney

In our trawl through the world’s top tech coverage from the weekend, we discover that former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s secret tech weapon code-named Orca lies harpooned on the beach, and without Steve Jobs, is Apple past its creative peak? Also, is there an end in sight to the smartphone patent wars?

Orca the killer fail – Romney’s secret weapon crashes

While US President Barack Obama’s campaign team is noted for being tech savvy, his former contender Mitt Romney’s team has an innovation ploy of its own – Project Orca.

According to The Verge: “Project Orca was designed to replace the standard phone- and paper-based get-out-the-vote effort, creating a central system that could track voters and allocate volunteers in real time. In a statement to The Huffington Post, the campaign promised that ‘by knowing the current results of a state, we can continue to adjust and micro target our get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure a Romney victory.’ It was also supposed to compete with Narwhal, the vote-tracking tool Obama would be using.”

However, by the time the election night was over, Orca was an embarrassment.

“Reporter Erin McPike tweeted that the app had crashed, rendering it unusable. A source in Boston said the tool had been hacked, and an anonymous aide corroborated the reports of crashes, telling The Washington Examiner that ‘somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it.’According to others, the problems didn’t stop there: even before the crash, users had trouble just finding the site or logging in. Few blamed Romney’s loss on Orca’s failure, but it was a final blow to his attempt to outmatch the notoriously tech-savvy Obama campaign.”

So is Apple doomed or not?

Authority on all things Apple John Gruber from Daring Fireball penned a strong riposte to an article by former Apple employee Dan Crow who wrote in The Guardian that Apple has passed its peak.

One of Crow’s assertions that the iOS 6 Maps debacle would never happened under Jobs’ leadership was discounted by Gruber: “On the contrary, for better or for worse, iOS 6 Maps is exactly what we expect from Apple: taking control over its essential technologies, confident, perhaps overly so, in its own ability to build a best-of-breed product. Of all the dozens of ‘This wouldn’t have happened if Steve were still alive’ arguments I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, the Maps one is the worst. Steve Jobs would have traded in Google Maps for a folded-up map from a gas station at this point, given the competitive situation between Apple and Google and the various privacy-invasive strings Google wanted to attach to desperately needed features, like turn-by-turn navigation and vector map tiles.”

Not so tick-tock: Apple pays out over Swiss clock

Apple has paid out US$21m to compensate Swiss rail operator SBB for using its famous clock without its permission, according to Agence France-Presse.

In order to continue to use SBB’s Swiss-designed station clock on iPad and iPhone devices, Apple had to pay up.

Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker designed the distinctive clock in 1944.

Peace in our time?

That Apple and HTC have laid down weapons and have settled their Android patent dispute 32 months after it started is a significant event and shows that ultimately an industry-wide patent peace is achievable, FOSS Patents opined.

But it seems the answer lies with Google, not Apple.

“Google officials, including former CEO and now-chairman Eric Schmidt, have repeatedly denied that Android has a patent infringement problem that needs to be solved through royalty-bearing licence deals. But Google’s rhetoric is out of touch with reality and inconsistent with the path chosen by its device-maker partners. Google’s OEMs definitely realise that they must approach the problem constructively and take care of themselves rather than trust Google on this. If Google’s strategy to settle all Android patent issues with Motorola’s patents had worked out, there would have been a completely different kind of announcement, relating to Android at large and not only to HTC.”

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Mitt Romney image via Shuterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years