I spoke to an Apple employee yesterday (who chooses to remain nameless) about the going’s on at Apple and the reason for the seemingly sudden lawsuit against cell phone manufacturer HTC. It has become obvious, from the 20 patent infringements Apple is claiming, that HTC isn’t really the target here. The target is Google.
Apple is really after Android the mobile operating system built by Google… HTC just happens to be caught in the middle of this fight between two titans of electronic industry. Apple knows they can’t go after Google directly because Android is free but they can go after the hardware manufacturers (in this case HTC). If HTC and the other hardware manufacturers are getting sued (and more importantly losing law suits to Apple over items that are in Android) Google will be forced to modify the OS so it is compliant without infringing on Apple’s patents. If they don’t the hardware manufactures will get their software elsewhere.
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours." - Steve Jobs
You can hear the passion coming from Steve. It is clear Apple is afraid of a repeat occurrence of what happened in the 80s with their personal computer operating system. The Apple graphical user interface changed the game for home computing but it was Microsoft that came away with the accolades (and the money). Now 20+ years later Apple has changed the game in the smart phone market only to see their biggest competitor, Google, ‘stealing’ much of its interface from the iPhone OS.
On the surface it sounds a little childish. Apple is angry that Google is making an OS that is similar to their own, but they can’t sue Google. So they go after HTC in hopes that they win and HTC puts pressure on Google. But really Apple is defending itself… in a weird way. They got burned hard once and almost went under and Apple is probably scared that it is about to happen again. Steve Jobs doesn’t want to lose Apple again so he will fight for his OS.
But what about the part where this lawsuit is absolutely terrifying for consumers? Great question. I was just getting to that.
As a consumer this could be very, very bad. If Apple wins this lawsuit against HTC and then moves on to Motorola, and Samsung, and everyone else that is making Android phones Google will have to roll over and (at least temporarily) weaken their OS by removing features. It could put the advancement of cell phone technology on hold for years while Google (and possibly others) has to start from scratch.
It would leave Apple without competition for a time. And a market without competition is not good. There’s no incentive to innovate when you’re on top holding all the cards. And that’s the last thing I want from any sector of technology.
Apple doesn’t often sue companies, I can think of only one time in recent memory when they sued someone directly… and that was because they were shipping PCs that were running a hacked version of OS X. They counter sue companies (like Nokia) when they get bullied but they generally don’t go out of their way to sue companies. That they are putting themselves out there against HTC probably means the Apple lawyers are extremely confident in themselves. This is definitely something I will keep my eyes on.
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