It’s no secret to anyone that while Apple sued HTC, the lawsuit is more about Google than HTC itself. Since Android is open source, and owned by no one, it’s kind of hard to go after Google itself, and as such, HTC was the prime target, since it is the number one Android smartphone maker. The New York Times has an in-depth article up about the subject, with a whole boatload of quotes from people within the two companies, and it paints a picture of all this being a highly emotional and personal vendetta – especially from Apple’s side.
As the article details, Google and Apple have a long history. During Google’s early days, Larry Page and Sergey Brin would visit Apple’s headquarters often, and Brin would regularly go on hikes together with Jobs in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The two Google founders considered Jobs a mentor, and they would often discuss possible future joint endeavours, including developing Safari for Windows together.
The relationship between Apple and Google remained all fine and dandy for a while; when Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, Eric Schmidt was up on stage with him, joking about things like “AppleGoo”, and congratulating Jobs with a great product, which would surely be a success. Google’s services, of course, were well-integrated into the iPhone.
Things started to go sour when Google went into the smartphone business with its Android operating system. Google bought the company behind Android in 2005, well before the iPhone entered the market, but it would take until after the iPhone was launched before the first Android devices shipped. The first ones were no match for the iPhone, but over time, Android devices got ever sleeker, until recently when we hit phones like the Droid and the Nexus One.
Steve Jobs feels as if Google has betrayed them. “At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Mr. Jobs believes that Google violated the alliance between the companies by producing cellphones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone,” Brad Stone and Miguel Helft write for the NYT, “In short, he feels that his former friends at Google picked his pocket.”
When Google’s plans for Android became clear, several meetings took place between the two companies, which, according to the NYT, heated up very quickly. Jobs accused Google of stealing iPhone technology, whereas Google said that Android prototypes existed well before the iPhone. In addition, Google executives have said that “Android’s features were based on longstanding ideas already circulating in the industry”.
One meeting in particular stands out, according to the NYT: Jobs said that if Google deployed multitouch, Apple would sue. Google didn’t budge. “I don’t think they made many accommodations,” a former Google executive who was briefed on the discussions told the NYT, “Google is not a company that is particularly afraid of anyone, including Apple.”
While Apple and Steve Jobs are getting openly aggressive towards Google, the search giant has remained relatively calm so far, continuing the party line of praising Apple as a valuable partner, and praising Jobs in particular. Inside Google itself, there’s not much animosity towards Apple, the NYT claims.
Inside Apple, the situation is different, according to the NYT. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life,” one Apple employee told the NYT, “I’m in so many meetings where so many potshots are taken. It feels weird.”
The article is filled with examples, quotes, and other instances of Google-Apple rivalry, and most surely an interesting read. It provides an insight into how this battle is not so much Apple’s doing, but more Jobs’, something people had been speculating on ever since the news of the HTC lawsuit hit.
It will be interesting to see where this goes.