Our own Brian Proffitt was just one of several tech journalists who hopped on an incredibly juicy quote from Korea Times on why Samsung agreed to pay protection money to Microsoft over Android patents:
"If Samsung truly believed that Google's takeover of Motorola Mobility was going to be helpful to the entire Android eco-system at large, it would have waited until that deal was closed before concluding the license agreement with Microsoft," said a Samsung official to The Korea Times. "Samsung knows it can't rely on Google. We've decided to address Android IP issues on our own."
For anyone following the various ongoing Android dramas, this is an incredible admission! A major Android player admitting that Google can't protect them from patent vulnerabilities, and also stating openly that they don't think the Google-Motorola deal has other Android parters' best interests in mind. The only problem is that almost the exact same thing was said by notorious gadfly Florian Mueller on his FOSS patents blog:
If Samsung truly believed that Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility was going to be helpful to the Android ecosystem at large, it would have waited until that deal is closed before concluding the license agreement with Microsoft. But Samsung probably knows it can't rely on Google. It decided to address Android's intellectual property issues on its own.
It's a pretty obvious example of wholesale copying -- but why? Mueller, in a note to Daring Fireball's Jon Gruber, says that he emailed his blog post to Kim Yoo-chul, the Korea Times reporter who was working on the story (because he emails his posts to lots of people, as most tech journalists know); Mueller believes that the resulting mixup arose from a native Korean speaker dealing with a very different language.
Does that make sense, though? The last sentence of the quote has been converted artfully from the third person to the second person plural. It doesn't really look like a language barrier issue. It's possible that the reporter garbled things and then the article itself was massaged by an editor who was fluent in English, but you would think that the reporter would have gave the thing an once-over before publishing. And honestly, the only kind of translation problem I can think of that would cause this sort of mistake would be if Kim thought that Mueller was a Samsung official, which would betray an inability to grasp the meaning of communication to the extent that he would have a hard time doing basic reporting. Maybe Kim decided that this quote too was too juicy to ignore -- and maybe it dovetailed with attitudes he was hearing from Samsung anyway.
Mueller's motivations are widely speculated upon in the tech community; he's been fingered as a Microsoft plant by some, and certainly the basic message conveyed by this quote -- that Google can't protect Android licensees from patent litigation -- serves Microsoft's agenda. As for Samsung, Gruber speculates that they aren't disavowing the quote because they agree with it. Maybe, but it still seems a little weird. Maybe nobody's translated the whole to-do into Korean for them yet.
Update: Florian Mueller replies below:
The author of the Korea Times article contacted me today (Saturday) -- not in his official capacity, just personally -- and it turns out he had indeed received very similar statements from several Samsung officials on condition of anonymity. Without any bad intention on his part (let alone mine), he collected different quotes and when he wrote the article, he didn't attribute it specifically enough, and then it was translated from Korean to English (though my quote was originally in English, the remainder of the article was originally written in Korean), and that resulted in some confusion.
An interesting look at how articles at the Korean Times are put together, if nothing else...