Google to protect Android Handset Makers?
Posted by Greg Mills
In the wake of the US International Trade Commission ruling that Android handset maker HTC has infringed on Apple patents, a number of interesting things have happened. First, the stock of HTC has taken a beating. The market is keen on the possibility that HTC and the Android OS may be in trouble. HTC has tried to shore up its stock valuation by buying up their own stock.
Eric Schmidt, the Chairman of Google stated at a Mobile Evolution Conference in Tokyo that he thinks HTC will ultimately prevail over Apple in the ITC hearings. Asked if Google would pay for legal help in fighting Apple, he was vague. When pressed, he went further stated that; "we will make sure they don't lose then". Will all the attorneys in the world change what it says on a patent? Google also is reported to have been looking at revisions to the Android OS, to hopefully work around the infringement. See: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-20080620-94/google-chairman-vows-to-def...
Schmidt and the entire Android platform hardware industry are very aware of the fact that the loss HTC has seen is a foretaste of what to expect when their turn comes up in ITC and court hearings. While each has a different set of patents in house and Apple has chosen to go after them with various patents, the notion that Android is going to be shattered, one handset maker at a time is becoming crystal clear.
Eric Schmidt stated that Apple's lawsuits were based upon jealousy over Android's features. He was quoted in an Australian web site as saying: "The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets and this means our competitors are responding, because they are not responding with innovation, they're responding with lawsuits." Google will soon see if Federal judges also dismiss Apple's patent suits as mere jealousy. See: http://www.perthnow.com.au/lifestyle/technology/googles-eric-schmidt-sla...
Another ominous sign for the Android platform is that handset makers are looking for alternative mobile OS solutions. As I blogged the other day, Microsoft might be able to pick up some portion of the market share that an imploding Android platform will leave. Apple is obviously positioned to take a lion's share of what used to be Android market share if they can take them out. The other fringe mobile OS platforms are also looking on with glee. See; http://www.slashgear.com/android-legal-losses-reportedly-prompt-exodus-t...
Remember the consortium that bought the package of patents a couple of weeks ago? Just about everyone who has an alternative mobile OS bought in. Apple leads the pack in wanting to break Android's back and if they succeed, the smartphone market will be dramatically changed.
There is big money in the mobile computing business and Apple intends to virtually own it. The iPad is also an unspoken elephant in the room. You know Apple is carefully looking at all the competing tablet OS platforms for infringement of iOS patents. More legal spats are on court dockets and Apple is positioned continue a winning streak.
Various analysts have speculated that Apple would demand a very high royalty on patents found to be infringed by Android handsets. Other observers think Apple will "just say no". History support the likelihood this isn't about money with Apple, it is about owning the mobile computing market outright.