Mar 10

Apple fires a shot over the bow

Apple to Android: may we have your attention please

They grow up so fast, don’t they?

It was just three years ago that Apple introduced iPhone. That was when, in one little aside, Steve Jobs gleefully noted that this new bundle of joy was patented out the wazoo.

Well, yesterday those patents got their first good workout. Apple filed a lawsuit against HTC claiming 20 violations. In doing so, Apple has stepped over an interesting line. That scrappy young revolutionary is now officially playing with the big boys — adding a little aggression to their arsenal of tricks.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. In a global market worth countless billions, it’s bound to get a bit rough. Companies will try anything they can to gain an advantage or strip away the other guy’s advantage. Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.

Obviously Apple believes they have a case against HTC. But just as obvious, there’s a far, far greater goal here. Apple wants the whole unruly gang of Androiders to think long and hard before they borrow/steal even a glimmer of the technology that sets iPhone apart. That includes hardware, software and philosophy. The message is: don’t even think about it.

Apple is demonstrating that they have the brains and brawn to fight in any arena, whether consumers be the judge or judges be the judge.

Yes, I do get a little wispy whenever another piece of the original, lovable Apple falls by the wayside. But the kid needs to grow up sometime, and it’s hard to be cute when you need to be intimidating.

Unlike some, I really don’t worry about Apple turning into the kind of company they’ve always fought against. Their moral compass remains one of the biggest reasons for their success.

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  • Those patents are just ridiculous. In Europe we managed to escaped from them, but this can’t help much in this globalized world. I’m not saying is not good to protect people ideas, but who discovered hot water doesn’t deserve so much credit (one of the patents was about moving objects on a screen!).

  • Surely Apple has played the aggressive lawyer patent game since the 1980s?

  • sarumbear

    “Their moral compass remains one of the biggest reasons for their success.”

    They said the same for Google. Look what happened?

    You cannot have a moral compass in business — end of story. Your only compass is whitewashing, marketing, and advertising. The good ones like you convince us otherwise — for a while :-)

  • Harry

    Apple should take any steps necessary to protect their intellectual property. Healthy competition does not include copying/stealing advances in technologically. In my view, Apple has always been a company that strives to be innovative and protecting those innovations is necessary to continue to be profitable. It is these profits that allow the freedom needed to take the chances necessary for true innovation. If other companies want to compete, let them build something with features that set their product apart.

  • D W

    moral compass…Apple? Haha, good one

  • ken segall

    Agreed that Apple is hardly virginal in the litigation department. Their lawsuit against Microsoft many years ago is the most memorable example. My point is more that due to Apple’s position of strength in the smartphone market, a very different meaning automatically gets attached to a lawsuit like this. They’re no longer the scrappy revolutionary trying to protect their technology from the evil giant — they’re the giant now (thankfully, not evil) trying to keep the hungry lions in their cages. There is some territorial aggression here. It’s entirely appropriate, and I’m all for it. I just think it’s interesting that Apple continues to evolve like this.

    I disagree that you can’t have a moral compass in business. Having spent years working with Apple, IBM, Intel and Dell, I can only say: there’s quite a difference between the way Apple works and the way other companies work. Apple really does follow principles more than profits, with the general belief that if you do the right thing, profit will ultimately follow. It’s pretty neat to see that theory proven in the marketplace.

    See above. It’s true!

  • Kesey

    @Ken “Apple really does follow principles more than profits, with the general belief that if you do the right thing, profit will ultimately follow. It’s pretty neat to see that theory proven in the marketplace.”

    But is that truly still the case?

  • ken segall

    That’s a question you can always keep asking until one day the answer is no. It’s just my opinion, of course, but I don’t think we’re close to that day today. If it were the case, Apple quality wouldn’t feel like Apple quality in computers and devices. Apple wouldn’t be at the top of the customer service surveys. Apple Stores would be constructed with the quality of a Gateway Store because “nobody really notices those differences anyway.”

    Apple spends in places other companies don’t, because quality is a priority. Investments are made in the long-term, even though they may not pay off today. They continue to invest in an economic downturn, even though short-term profits are down (and while most companies are slashing budgets). To a degree, Apple acts as the R&D department for the industry, pushing in areas that are hardly proven — like iPad — simply because they believe in it. These are all marks of a company that acts on principles. When I no longer see these things, I’ll begin to wonder.

  • John Walker

    Putting the Apple law suit aside, can’t we agree that the patent system with regard to technology, especially software, is fundamentally broken.

  • ken segall

    @John Walker:
    I’ll drink to that. I’ve been mad at the system ever since Amazon got away with patenting “1-Click” buying.