Tuesday, March 2, 2010

07. apple vs google via htc

lawsuits are always a good time (as long as you're not involved, of course). patent lawsuits - even better. tech patent lawsuits - main events announced by bruce buffer in the octagon.

let me preface by saying this - patent law is one of the most, if not the most, ruthless fields in all of the business world. it is the grown up equivalent of "one of the other boys pushed me on the playground and took my toy." quick example - microsoft lost an infringement judgment a couple of months ago against a canadian company called i4i, specialists in XML technology. the lawsuit was over XML usage in the microsoft office 2007 software package, a feature that most users and businesses don't even regularly use yet. seems pretty minor, right?

yeah. it was minor. minor to the tune of $290 million.

so there you are - patent cases can even cost the giants millions. now in the case of microsoft, they have the money ($14.5 billion net in 2009 for those keeping score) and industry position to weather it.

but on to the matter at hand - apple vs htc. when i first heard about this i figured it would be a case about multi-touch technology. but i was only partially correct - the lawsuit is concerning twenty (20) alleged infringements by HTC's android OS powered mobile devices. but why only HTC? there are plenty of other companies that manufacture android based touchscreen phones - but somehow motorola, LG, sony ericcson, and samsung ducked the crosshairs.

one solitary answer floats to the top of the pile of possibilities - apple doesn't care about htc specifically, the quarry they're after is google itself. google gives away their android OS for free, and since the introduction of android based phones, i have a feeling steve jobs has been getting a little nervous with passing time.

“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,” said steve jobs, apple’s CEO. “we think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

do you think you're slick, steve? do you think no one's picked up on what you're doing here? don't play that game.

and here was htc's response. this only came after being asked about the issue by engadget - apparently it hit htc out of nowhere.  apple had thrown their press release to the media before even serving htc with a single scrap of legal complaint:

"we only learned of apple’s actions based on your stories and apple’s press release. we have not been served yet so we are in no position to comment on the claims. we respect and value patent rights but we are committed to defending our own innovations. we have been innovating and patenting our own technology for 13 years."

right, like that's jobs' primary concern. he's already had to answer to infringement suits against the iphone in the last few years. it's impossible to hide the fact that jobs is just sore. others have come up with viable alternative options to the iphone, new ones hit the market everyday, and google's android OS facilitates it.  let's face it, in today's digital world, mobile is a far more fertile development ground than stationary office desktop applications and market share is survival. apple was the commercial pioneer for touchscren style mobile devices, starting with the iphone and ipod touch in 2007. but they're not alone anymore - not even close. the cell phone market is now littered with touchscreen web-enabled offerings from sprint, verizon, t-mobile, and even non-iphone options from AT&T.

but google is too strong to take on head-to-head. so what's apple's strategy? pick the sickly gazelle, htc, and slow roll google's business partners one by one until what's left can be taken out much easier. i mean who cares about the consumer, right? i for one am targeting an htc android-based device for my next smartphone, and if apple succeeds in getting this injunction, i am going to be pissed. unfortunately, i'm seeing this as an opening salvo in a war apple is not going to end anytime soon.

it's kind of like trying to pick off the annoying adds in a video game boss fights. remember the lavos bits at the end of chrono trigger? onyxia's whelps in warcraft? oh that's right, you know what i'm talking about.

google has already released a statement in effect saying that they have their business partners' backs, which creates an interesting environment for retaliation. when you open up safari on your iphone, apple will direct you to google as its default search engine. apple also proudly touts on the iphone website the ability to run youtube - another google product. and under that section for "find my phone" - is that... yes, as a matter of fact it IS google maps! these were also two google technologies prevalent in the big ipad reveal in january. since they'll support their business partners, this could possibly play out in a very violent way (metaphorically violent, of course - i don't actually foresee physical bloodshed).

steve jobs is a genius, i'm not even going to try to argue that point, but he's also a selfish prick. but sometimes that's what you want in a bigtime CEO. when he wins he wins huge, but he will sulk and whine like a child if something doesn't quite go his way. during the ipad launch, an infuriated jobs asked the wall street journal's alan murray to delete one of his tweets that he found, well i guess, enraging. the tweet said:

"this tweet sent from an ipad. does it look cool?"

heroic.

jobs doesn't like competition, and looking at the 20 patents he's claiming, there's at least a few where his case doesn't really hold any water. come on stevie, if you just drop the AT&T exclusivity you'd have tons more sales, and could maybe go back to spending time on innovating change, not trying to bully your competitor's little friends on the playground.

i also hear that he parks his fancy cars in handicapped spaces.

for those curious to specifics, here's links to 10 of the publicly available contended patents. provided, ironically, through google's "google patents" service

5,455,599: “Object-Oriented Graphic System”
5,848,105: “GMSK Signal Processors For Improved Communications Capacity And Quality”
5,920,726: “System And Method For Managing Power Conditions Within A Digital Camera Device.”
6,424,354: “Object-Oriented Event Notification System With Listener Registration Of Both Interests And Methods”
7,362,331: “Time-Based, Non-Constant Translation Of User Interface Objects Between States”
7,469,381: “List Scrolling And Document Translation, Scaling, And Rotation On A Touch-Screen Display”
7,479,949: “Touch Screen Device, Method, And Graphical User Interface For Determining Commands By Applying Heuristics”
7,633,076: “Automated Response To And Sensing Of User Activity In Portable Devices”
7,657,849: “Unlocking A Device By Performing Gestures On An Unlock Image”
7,383,453: “Conserving Power By Reducing Voltage Supplied To An Instruction-Processing Portion Of A Processor”

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