Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apple Makes a Move for Cell Phone Dominance

Whether you have heard of HTC, or not, you probably soon will.  In years past, HTC has made cell phones that were later re-branded by many major cell service providers.  More recently, they have been selling smartphones under their own brand name with great success.  Their phones are available on almost all of the major carriers and run either Windows Mobile or Google's Android operating system.

Today, Apple filed suit against HTC claiming that the majority of their phones infringe on 20 of the patents that Apple holds.  Most of the patents are vague and will be difficult to clearly enforce against HTC.  Apple is asking for triple the damages and for an injunction on all sales of HTC phones.  Apple has alleged similar violations against Nokia and Palm, but has not taken such extreme action against these companies.  It would, on the surface, seem that Apple is looking for money, but the truth is, they are gunning for much more than that.

Why HTC and why now?  Apple may have moved against HTC, but today they fired the first guns in an all out war against Google.  HTC is the number one manufacturer of smartphones based on Google's Android operating system.  In fact, 19 of the 20 claims against HTC reference the software and Google's operating system as opposed to the devices themselves.  It has been stated many times by major tech websites that Google's Android operating system is the main competition for Apple's iPhone.  Considering the size and resources of Google, HTC is a much easier target for Apple.  Also, Motorola and Samsung, other manufactures that use Google's Android operating system, are much more established companies and have much larger collections of patients themselves.  If you have, or use a smartphone of any brand other then Apple, the outcome of this battle could have a serious impact on the industry as a whole.

Personally, I understand that this is a business move, but I look down at any company has to gain ground by legal means as opposed to staying innovative and competitive in their field.  Ultimately, consumers choice will be what is lost if the courts rule against HTC.  Here are some things that could be interesting to watch for as this unfolds:

  • A countersuit by HTC.  HTC has been in the phone business longer than Apple and they probably have many patents that they could fall back on as well.
  • HTC support from Google and Microsoft.  While these two companies do not always see eye to eye, they both have a stake in HTC's success.
  • Apple loosing support from consumers.  Even today, many tech forums are filled with Apple supporters that have denounced the company's aggressiveness and are vowing to never buy anything from Apple again.
  • Google pulling applications and support from the iPhone.  This is a bit extreme, but it might put needed pressure on Apple to back off.
  • Legal action by other cell phone manufacturers against Apple in an effort to protect their interests and force a settlement.
  • No more news and a quick settlement.  HTC may decide that Apples claims are valid and choose to settle.
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