Could the latest ITC ruling spell doom for HTC and Android?
With the recent ruling of the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in favour of Apple for copyright infringements against HTC, things are looking very tricky for Google’s Android OS.
The whole story began a couple of years ago when Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was still on the Board of Directors for Apple Inc. and had access to pretty much the whole development plans for the, then upcoming, iPhone and iOS. At the same time Google was also working on a mobile OS of their own, Android. As Eric Schmidt left Apple in 2009 due to obvious conflict of interest, no lawsuits were filed against him. However, it soon became apparent that many of Android’s features mirrored those represented in the iPhone. The whole story seems like a repeat of the incident between Apple and Microsoft back in the early days of these two behemoths. This time though, Steve Jobs was more than prepared to tackle the issue.
Instead of going after Google themselves, Apple has gone ahead and filed a lawsuit for patent infringement against some of Google’s Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). While the lawsuit against Samsung has been much publicized of late, the battle between Apple vs HTC has just now had some results. Apple originally filed for 20 patents that they’ve had which they claimed HTC was violating in March 2010. Of those, 2 have been granted as valid in the ”initial determination”, with the others still under observation and scrutiny by a six team commission ; the final results being announced on 6th December, 2011.
In case you were wondering, one of the two patents is Apple’s ability to have email addresses, maps and phone numbers you receive in emails and see on sites convert to links that you can directly email to, open up in maps or call directly. They have had this patent since 1996. Android does the same. Another patent the ”real-time signal processing system” which, as the name implies, allows for multiple processes and apps to be run in real-time from one chip. Both of these are not exclusive to HTC, but are an integral part of the Android OS.
Now after this ruling, Apple can take many routes, should the final decision be in their favour for all 20 patents. However, even with the above two patents, Apple can get HTC to pay an incredible amount of money, or outright have their handsets banned in the US. This obviously will apply to other Android manufacturers as well, and with Samsung already having an ugly face-off against Apple, it won’t be long before other Android OEMs become wary of Apple and stop making Android smartphones. Just based on this hearing itself the share value for HTC fell on the Taipei Stock Exchange to its lowest in the past 6 months.
Many of you may think that Apple is being unfair towards HTC, other Android OEMs and Google. However, lessons from history (Apple and Microsoft) have taught us that such liberal copying of competitor technology and ideas cannot be allowed in normal business. At the end of the day, any aggressive action from Apple against HTC, Samsung and other OEMs could result in a poor public perception of the Android platform as a whole. So while Apple isn’t directly attacking Google, it’s certainly crippling all of Google’s partners, and consequently Google’s Android platform itself.
For all those who’re thinking Apple is acting unfairly, here’s a choice quote from Steve Jobs, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”