The long-running smartphone platform war shows no signs of ending any time soon. Microsoft and Apple remain committed to challenging Android wherever they can, but Google won’t take it lying down.
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We’ve taken a look at the patent wars recently and discussed the fact that all this suing and patent trolling isn’t a positive thing for anyone except the trolls and the lawyers. We’ve also taken a look at the Google vs Microsoft battle and we’ve asked how much does Google really make from Android? Well, these issues are far from over as Microsoft continues to force licensing agreements down everyone’s throat and Apple is equally happy to attack Android in the courts. Let’s take a look at what has been happening recently.
The war rages on with recent revelations that Apple’s God, Steve Jobs hated Android (shock, horror) and the usual outbursts and lawsuits from obnoxious troll Steve Ballmer and Microsoft.
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A biography of Steve Jobs, rather cynically released just after his death last month, revealed his angry reaction to an Android phone release from HTC. He was quoted as saying "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, responded by saying "I've decided not to comment on what's been written in a book after his death. Steve is a fantastic human being and someone who I miss very dearly. As a general comment, I think most people would agree that Google is a great innovator and I would also point out that the Android effort started before the iPhone effort."
Apple and Samsung continue to slug it out in the courts and seem intent on trying to get each other’s products banned in various territories. Apple is enjoying its usual stellar success with the iPhone 4S despite the battery issue complaints, but they haven’t come close to stopping Android’s incredible growth.
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Turning to the Microsoft front we have a new victim in Microsoft’s Android licensing crusade. Instead of quietly accepting a deal and then burying the details under an NDA like previous licensees, Barnes and Noble has come out swinging and accused Microsoft of anticompetitive behavior. They contend Microsoft has been buying up patents for years and is now using them to try and raise the costs for rivals to their own smartphone platform. They actually sent a letter to the Department of Justice so it will be interesting to see what their response is.
Schmidt spoke about some of this on Tuesday and he said Google remain committed to giving Android away for free and that the Motorola takeover won’t adversely impact on other partners. He also commented on the Microsoft licensing crusade saying "Microsoft is not telling the truth on this issue, and they are using tactics to scare people because they are scared of the success of Android."
He later said that Google would continue to support partners in disputes with Apple and Microsoft.
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All the arguments about patent protection encouraging companies to spend on research and development, because they can see a return for developing IP, are getting a bit muddy in the face of companies buying up patent portfolios so they can pursue profit in the courts. Surely the concentration of these patents is inevitably going to lead to monopoly status and allow them to block innovations from other companies or price them out of the market? Why are they allowed to set different licensing costs for different companies and why do they choose to enforce them selectively?
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Microsoft Moans But Takes the Money
Microsoft is obviously feeling threatened by Android, and Windows Phone is not performing well in terms of market share. I understand their offensive tactics in terms of maximizing profit, but some of the stuff Ballmer comes out with is just plain stupid. At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco last month he said "You don't need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows phone. And I think you do to use an Android phone!"
It would appear that millions of Android customers don’t agree. In terms of market share, Android is still growing faster than its competitors. The iPhone is also still growing in popularity, but RIM’s BlackBerry continues to decline and it’s the same story for Microsoft.
It remains to be seen how the partnership of two of the mobile world’s biggest losers in recent years, Microsoft and Nokia, will shake out, but it doesn’t look like a major threat to Android right now.
Even if Microsoft succeed in making Android just as expensive as Windows Phone to license that isn’t going to make Windows Phone more attractive for manufacturers because Android is already much more popular with consumers. All it will really do is make Microsoft a ton of money. If you think about it they are in a win-win situation -- they’ll make money either way.
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Android and iOS All the Way
Beyond the back and forth digs and snide remarks in the press and the lawsuits in the courts, consumers are clearly choosing Android and iOS in overwhelming numbers. Android and iOS with Android 4.0 and iOS 5 are continuing to offer innovations and improvements that consumers want. BlackBerry and Windows Phone are still playing catch up. Whether they will ever catch up, much less surpass, the market leaders seems highly debatable.