Steve Job’s vow to go “thermonuclear” on Android scored its first big victory last week, as Apple’s $1.05 billion patent infringement judgement over Samsung made clear the company’s intent to aggressively defend its creative and technological innovations.
The only question is whether of not that’s a good thing — for consumers and businesses.
The victory came after little more than 20 hours of jury deliberations. The trial was quite different, with high-stakes histrionics, advisories to settle out of court and thousands of pages of documents detailing how the South Korean company copied critical aspects of Apple’s mobile design and technology. Sure enough, the jury agreed that features such as pinch and zoom and “bounce back” were copied. The jury didn’t award Apple everything it wanted, but the Cupertino-based tech giant nonetheless scored a deep win in a war that has seen the two companies battle on three continents.
No matter how damning the verdict was from San Jose, the fight is far from over. Samsung has already vowed to contest the ruling, and to appeal should it be necessary. Even if unsuccessful, the billion-dollar award will only slightly dent their $21 billion cash stockpile. Apple, meanwhile, clearly has sights set on Google and others as they fight to protect what they claim to be their intellectual and inspirational property. That covers alot of ground, to be sure, and will require revision in the operation and design of Android-based smartphones should Apple continue to assert its patent dominion.
Ironically, the harm of such dogged determination could eventually fall to consumers, the businesses that count on mobile commerce and even to Apple itself. Restrictions on technology is sure to create a less competitive marketplace, which will slow a red hot industry. Fact is, the demand for smartphone technology is so great that Apple can’t possible make enough iPhones to go around. Instead of creating hurdles to innovation by penalizing companies for old crimes that lifted the entire business, Apple needs to innovate as they have in the past — better, faster and more passionately — than the rest.
That doesn’t mean that Apple should allow other companies to duplicate their products. But the fact is that they and others created the public’s insatiable thirst for technology that works beautifully, and it is a far better thing to have companies copy products from Apple than shallow and cheap alternatives.
The irony of it is in the circle of life and competition. The company that has long portrayed itself as the hip alternative to corporate sameness, the company that gave us an alternative to the thin, emotionless products of Microsoft, is acting very much like the largest and richest company in the world.
Is it now time for Microsoft to become David to Apple’s ugly and bitter Goliath?
By Brian Chee