A7 is to Samsung as Harry Potter is to Scholastic

I was in a Best Buy last night to spend $15 worth of free rewards they gave me. Per usual, the worst thing about walking into a Best Buy is having to over hear the employees pretending to know what they are talking about regarding technology and spoon feeding misinformation to customers who think that Best Buy employees know what they are talking about.

To be fair, I have had the same experience in an Apple Store before, but at least in Apple Store I am more often surprised by how much the employees do know and how they say "I don't know" and get help when they don't know something. Still, they are not perfect and also feed customers misinformation.

Last night's experience was especially jarring. I was looking at headphones for my daughter which positioned me right next to the Samsung "store within a store". I heard a saleswoman talking to a couple. She was relating a story about how she used her "superior technical knowledge" to show up an Apple fan. Here is how it went:

So this guy with an iPhone tells me that his iPhone 5s has the fastest processor in any phone. So then I asked him if he knew who made that processor. I told him it was Samsung and so his iPhone couldn't be faster than a Galaxy. All he could say was Apple must have paid them a lot of money to make the fastest processor for them.

I wanted to gag. For somebody who understands the difference between chip design and chip fabrication it was like hearing somebody say that JK Rowling was their favorite author and having somebody counter with "well, it was Scholastic who printed and shipped the books -- she couldn't have done that".

Designing a CPU happens on a computer. The output of that design is fed into automated equipment that fabricates that CPU using the design as input. Certainly, Samsung has some of the highest volume and highest quality fabs on the planet. With A7 being an ARM chip it is not like Apple can go to Intel and ask them to build it. By the same notion, Kinkos has some of the largest, highest-volume copy machines on the planet. If I am going to produce a large number of copies (especially in large sizes) then I am going to take my work to Kinkos. It doesn't mean that my work is any less mine because Kinko's printed it for me.

To bring this back to computer terms: imagine for a moment that Microsoft out-sourced the burning of the DVD's containing its Microsoft Office software to Joe's DVD Burning and Packaging Service. Joe receives a digital file from Microsoft and they turned around and burned the DVD's, put labels on them and packaged them in boxes for shipping. Does it mean that Microsoft is not the producer of Microsoft Office? Does it mean the Joe's DVD Burning service deserves the credit? Heck no.

But these folks at Best Buy (and sadly too many commenters on these forums) fail to understand the difference between chip design and chip fabrication. I wanted to interrupt this Best Buy "technology expert" and set her straight, but I held my tongue while she mislead two customers who have no idea that there is a difference between chip fabrication and chip design. I wanted to print her a copy of Anandtech's review of iPhone 5s and highlight the sections on the A7 and the difference in the types of ARM licenses out there. I also wanted to print her a copy of Anandtech's article on benchmark juicing and how just about every manufacturer with the exception of Apple and Google/Motorola are guilty of it. I wanted to show her that Snapdragon is actually a trademark of Qualcomm and that they are the ones who design the chips in most Samsung phones sold in the USA. I wanted to point out that a Snapdragon 800 at 2.3Ghz can't out-perform an Apple A7 at 1.3Ghz even when you juice the benchmarks.

Sadly, I am pretty sure any such effort to set this person straight would have been wasted. Instead I resigned myself to feeling sorry for those customers and hoped that they preferred the Galaxy phones they were buying for some reason other than CPU/GPU performance versus an iPhone.