Apple vs. Samsung: Is it a Proxy War?
Incest is something that has been fairly common in most technology fields. Most manufacturers behind the smoke screen develop products that use or depend on the work that a competitor has created. In the race of innovation, winning brands file thepatents and competing manufacturers pay the royalties.
On every Samsung Android smartphone sold, Microsoft allegedly said they deserve $15 per unit, even though Google licenses Android for free. Why’s that? Because somewhere in the architecture of these Android phones, some Microsoft patents are used.
This is however not new and going back over the years, most consumer electronics companies have benefited from each other’s R&D efforts. In many cases, the relationships have been deeper amongst even the stiffest of competitors where they would supply components to each other. Sony for example is one of the largest suppliers of batteries for notebooks so when batteries in Toshiba, Dell or HP laptops were being recalled, the guilty culprit was Sony as they had supplied them all with batteries.
The fact that Samsung and Apple have been at war is a bit of a surprise. Apple relies quite heavily on Samsung for various components that go into their smartphones and tablets. Apple had to know that Samsung as a supplier was also a competitor as they were already in the mobile phone business years before the iPhone was launched and had been marketing their own brand of laptops for several years. Rumor has it that Dell also was heavily dependent on Samsung for their laptops so for Samsung to progress onto tablets would’ve been but natural.
The sticky point that many assumed irked Apple was the fact that Samsung was Google’s blue-eyed boy and the poster child for how Android can be successful. When talk of litigation first started a few years ago, many like myself assumed this was a proxy war that Apple was fighting against Google.
It is well known that Steve Jobs as Apple CEO was furious with Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and then CEO of Google as Schmidt was on the Board of Directors of Apple when Google was developing their smartphone strategy. For Jobs, business is personal and instead of directly attacking Google with a series of lawsuits, it looked like Apple was deploying Cold War tactics and suing Samsung instead. When Google bought Motorola, many assumed Google was strengthening their arsenal of patents so that they could file similar lawsuits against Apple or anyone else who they wanted to enter into war games with.
What has happened over the course of this trial so far though has been quite different. Most of the arguments that Apple has thus far presented haven’t really focused on Android or Google. Rather it has been truly about the design aspects of the Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
Has Apple decided they don’t want to decide Steve Jobs personal battle in a court room or do they genuinely feel threatened by Samsung as a hardware company? The indications so far seem to be that Apple does feel threatened by Samsung and with the threat of Windows 8 tablets powered by Samsung, they may be seeing this as a way to diffuse Microsoft’s entry into the tablet race, thus making this a proxy war between Apple and Microsoft.
The mind can wander and imagine but what seems certain is that we’re going to see more lawsuits like this emerge for months and years to come.