Oh, Apple — it’s getting harder and harder to maintain my enthusiasm for you.
First, what is this business with you suing HTC over 20 iPhone patents? Cupertino’s in a snit over what it perceives as infringement "related to the iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture and hardware" — specifically "unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" and references to multitouch.
Well, that all sounds pretty vague, doesn’t it? And it looks like it would extend to pretty much any touchscreen phone ever made.
From the press release: “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.”
These words echo what Tim Cook previously said about being willing "to suit up and go against anyone." At one time, some thought it would be Palm, but it doesn't appear that WebOS is what Apple is gunning after, at least right now. Instead, Cupertino — which has already locked horns with Nokia — has gone after HTC. Surprising? YES — as much to HTC itself as anyone. Like us, the Android/WinMo phone maker found out about the litigation by reading about it on the web.
The group of devices at the heart of the matter is expansive and startling; it’s made up of practically every HTC-made WinMo or Android phone. That’s not even the most interesting part: The handsets that were repeatedly singled out by Apple were of the Android variety. (The WinMo phones were picked for sporting a DSP chip, but not necessarily for the feature set or functionality of the OS). Apple wants to block the import and sale of these HTC phones in the U.S. and seeks three times the damages, plus “maximum interest.”
If it seems to you like the iPhone maker is singling out and attacking a primary Android manufacturer, then according to industry watchers, you may have just gotten the whole point of this mess.
(FYI: Gizmodo’s got the goods on this, with full coverage that includes all the filings embedded on its site. Click here to go there.)
Obviously, this kind of stuff can really stoke the fires on the Apple hate, particularly among Android fanatics. As an iPhone user, even I have to admit that this leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. I still love the iPhone, and I’m proud that this device blazed a trail that has widely been acknowledged (whether partly or completely) for inspiring today’s current boom in smartphones. But I have been and continue to be gobsmacked about Apple’s behavior. For a company that was considered a pioneer, this ugly attempt at eradicating the competition, instead of innovating new paths to success, is unseemly at best. At worst, it could wake a sleeping giant. It looks like a pointed attack against Google by way of Android, with HTC getting hit in the crossfire.
Most consumers may hardly notice this news item, but industry watchers and tech geeks can see that this is a cannon ball fired over the enemy wall. The ramifications of this aren’t obvious yet, but I’m somewhat bracing myself over what could unfold next.
What do you guys think? Bold, but silly move that, like other lawsuits, won’t really do anything but make a point? Or is it a real and credible threat that should have HTC — or possibly all Android makers — shaking in its shoes?
UPDATE: PD reader "months" just offered up a link to a comprehensive Engadget post that explains each patent concern. What caught my eye in it is this really interesting tidbit from the site: "...Of note, most of the patents were granted in the past year, but overall they span a range from 1995 to February 2. Yes, last month..." To check out the full post and the discussion points over each one of the patents, click here. (Thanks, months!)