Google vs. Apple: The inevitable patent battle ahead

Google Vs. Apple

There’s a storm coming in the world of tech. The Apple vs Samsung trial may be the hot news right now, but it could prove to be the undercard for a heavyweight clash of the titans between Apple and Google. There has been plenty of animosity between the two in recent years and Google has certainly been supporting its Android partners against Apple behind the scenes, but the two have yet to step into the ring together. The battle ahead seems inevitable.

Samsung vs Apple trial will embolden one of them

With the outcome of the Samsung and Apple trial still far from certain, we can be sure of one thing – the winning side will look to push the advantage. It seems more likely that Apple will emerge victorious at the moment, but Samsung has a good defense and a countersuit to press. The fight between the two most successful smartphone manufacturers on the planet right now will probably not end when this trial does. An agreement across the board seems like a distant possibility.

If Apple wins, you can bet that more infringement suits will follow. If Samsung wins, Google and the other Android manufacturers may be emboldened to take on Apple.

Could we see a court battle directly between Google and Apple? Though Roger Cheng at CNET says no way, we think it’s a possibility.

Motorola could be the key

motorola plans for 2011 separation logoWhen Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, it also acquired a number of strong patents and inherited a legal dispute with Apple. The Motorola vs. Apple case involved claims from Apple about multiple patent infringements by Motorola and some counterclaims by Motorola that Apple had infringed on its patents. The litigation started in 2010 and the patent claims on both sides were gradually whittled down until Judge Posner finally dismissed the entire case in June of this year. Apple plans to appeal and Google may be forced to fight the case after all.

Cutting out Google

Apple has been systematically removing Google from default status in iOS and withdrawing support for its services. This purge is becoming clearer as the release of iOS 6 approaches. The new version of Apple’s platform will not use Google Maps – Apple has created its own maps app. There will also be no YouTube app included, although this may have been Google’s decision as Apple’s license expired and its YouTube app was outdated, never updated, and didn’t support ads.

The branded Google search button on mobile Safari was removed a long time ago and just reads “Search” now. Google search is still the default, but Apple offers Yahoo and Bing as options. Would they consider removing Google search as the default? Probably not without an alternative that offers a comparatively good experience. Is Bing there yet? I don’t know.

Part of the reason for this attack could be the fact that Google is raking it in from iOS devices. It has been suggested that Google actually makes more from iOS than it does from Android. Apple obviously doesn’t want to line the pockets of its sworn enemy.

Is it a fair fight?

It seems pretty clear that Google is ducking a direct fight and frankly who can blame it? No one really wants to fight Apple if they can avoid it. When it comes to litigation, Apple is clearly the aggressor, but you could argue that Google started it by trying to muscle in on Apple’s market. There’s no doubt that the release of Android caused the original rift.

It is worth mentioning that, despite perceptions, Google is comparatively small next to Apple. The profits generated by Apple are far in excess of what Google makes. Apple is pulling in the lion’s share of the profit in the smartphone industry, as a matter of fact. More than one estimate suggests Apple claimed over 70 percent of smartphone profits in the second quarter.

When it comes to stocks, Google’s (GOOG) market cap is about half that of Apple’s (AAPL). We also have to remember that Google is already engaged in a bitter battle with Microsoft (MSFT). How many fronts can it really afford to open up?

Apple is a control freak

Even the most fervent of Apple fans would find it tough to deny that Apple likes to be in control. The iOS ecosystem is often referred to as a “walled garden.” Apple makes its own hardware and it dictates terms to partners in every aspect of its business. The company is used to being in the driving seat and the patent war seems to be partly about frustration at other companies daring to emulate Apple’s success, but that’s how business works. So Samsung copied Apple: Who cares? Everyone’s doing it.

Markets evolve and everyone copies successful ideas and builds upon them. Human progress depends on it. I know some people will argue there’s a difference between that and outright theft or cloning of Apple products, but the line is far from clear. Ultimately, it’s for the courts to decide, but even victory in the courtroom is not going to give Apple what it wants.

Let’s give peace a chance

The most annoying thing about the Google vs Apple battle is that we – the consumers – are suffering. Perhaps they consider us collateral damage. Our tech devices cost more because of licensing deals and expensive litigation. Features and services that we would enjoy are being ripped out and divided. The likelihood of getting a device that just works with everything we have is decreasing because the only way to have that integrated tech lifestyle we all want is by pledging allegiance to one company and buying all of its products.

Since no one company offers the best experience across the board, we’re forced to mix and match. Despite the capability being there for seamless integration of all our devices, petty squabbles are preventing it from happening. I’d like to bang all of their heads together. Work together!

Listen up, tech companies. You should:

  • Stop putting your shareholders first (you don’t have to tell them that)
  • Let go of your hate. That’s the path to the dark side
  • Remember the loyal consumer who just wants a good product at a reasonable price
  • Tech is supposed to improve our lives
  • Instead of fighting, put your energy into making better products

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. There is a chance that Google and Apple will see sense and stop fighting. I bet Google would happily shake hands and move on, and Tim Cook did say he would “prefer to settle.” If you rewind a few years, you would never have predicted that Microsoft and Apple would team up together. It’s just a little sad that what brought them together was mutual hatred of Google.