Today’s “the day after”. The day after Apple started a patent war with HTC and Google. Today, we have statements from both HTC and Google, and a number of other people have weighed in as well as to the possible ramifications of Apple’s lawsuit.
While you’d think everyone is most interested in HTC’s view on the matter, the more interesting player in this drama is most certainly Google. Apple might’ve filed its lawsuit against HTC, but everyone agrees that the real target here is Android. Google has said in a statement that it will stand behind HTC. “We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it,” the company said in a statement to TechCrunch.
The New York Times wrote a piece about this as well, and in it, Kevin Rivette, a patent lawyer and former VP for intellectual property strategy at IBM, states that Apple is trying to stop the Android tsunami before it has even started. “[The lawsuit] is the opening shot in a war,” Rivette told the NYT, “Apple is island-hopping, attacking first the Asian companies. Then it can go after Motorola, gradually whittling away at Google’s base. They want to break the Android tsunami.”
As a simple layman, I get the feeling that Apple is afraid. Apple is afraid that history will repeat itself: 30 years ago and onwards, consumers in the personal computing market made a very, very clear choice. People wanted choice, and people wanted cheap. People didn’t want a system that lived on an island, a system developed and supplied by a single entity. The vast majority of personal computers sold today – over 95% – fall into this cheap & choice category.
Apple lost that war, and I get the feeling – but again, I’m a layman, and I’m probably talking out of my bum – that Apple wants to prevent history from repeating itself. They don’t want the smartphone world to become like the PC world, with loads of different hardware companies producing smartphones with software they pick from another company – be it Android, Windows Phone 7 Series, or whatever else.
HTC, in the meantime, doesn’t appear to be too worried. The company emphasizes that it has been in the phone business for far longer than Apple, and that it, too, has built up a considerable patent portfolio. And of course, you can bet your unicorn that Google will do whatever it takes to help HTC. In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Google actually suing Apple as well, alongside HTC.
Apple may be facing a very hard time trying to win this case. As the NYT article details, the entire case will hinge on whether or not HTC and possible partners like Google will be able to find cases of prior art – and seeing the ridiculous nature of some of these patents, that may not be too hard.
In addition, other companies have been active in this field for far longer than Apple. Palm has been selling touch screen phones for a while now, and probably has a major patent portfolio as well – and I don’t think Palm would hesitate to help out HTC and Google. The NYT article further lists Synaptics as a major player in this area.
“Companies have been working on this for some time,” Mark A. Lemley, a law professor at Stanford who also represents Google in some unrelated matters, told the NYT, “Now, it’s fair to say the Apple technology works better than prior generations of technology, so there may well be inventions there.”
We’ll all have to wait and see. I’ll bring the Martini, you bring the popcorn?