Google’s Android operating system has certainly rocked the mobile industry over the last three years. With multiple manufacturers offering hundreds of feature-packed handsets around the world, the little green robot certainly has a lot going for it.
However, stiff competition from Apple and Microsoft, along with dozens of lawsuits coming from seemingly every direction, look to stop Android’s explosive growth dead in it’s tracks. How long can the mobile OS survive in this hostile industry?
Here’s a snippet from a recent report on the topic by FOSSPatent‘s expert analyst, Florian Mueller:
“Google’s cavalier attitude toward other companies’ intellectual property is starting to backfire in seriously harmful ways. Samsung is only the first Android OEM to suffer economic damage by not being able to launch products in certain markets. It won’t be the last. Motorola Mobility and HTC are also under pressure.”
Mueller is referring to an ongoing injunction in Australia that is barring Samsung from launching its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the country. Apple won a major court battle last week, extending the slate’s temporary ban for several more months. By the time Samsung is elegible to sell its tablet in Australia, the device will be nearly a year old.
The final decision will be the one to watch though, says Mueller.
“If Apple wins the Australian case at the end of the main proceeding, all Android-based products will effectively be shut out of the Australian market forever, unless Google or its device maker partners settle with Apple.”
We all know that Apple won’t settle. It’s not in the business of licensing its IP (Intellectual Property), and it certainly doesn’t need the money. It seems as if the company won’t stop until Android partners quit using Android all together.
But it’s not just Apple. Microsoft has also been using its extensive IP portfolio against Android handset-makers. HTC pays the Redmond-based company a $5 licensing fee for every Android handset it sells, and Samsung just hatched out a similar deal.
$5 per phone is a fairly large amount when you consider how small the typical handset-maker’s profit margins are. Not everyone has a Tim Cook. Why do you think Samsung and HTC were both in the conversation as possible webOS buyers? Between lawsuits and licensing fees, Android (the “free software”) is getting too expensive.
And it gets worse. Android’s biggest threat to its existence isn’t even a competitor, it’s Oracle. The company owns thousands of Java-related patents, and is taking Google and its mobile OS to court over several of them. Here’s an excerpt from a recent court brief:
“Oracle will prove at trial that Google deliberately chose to base its Android software platform on Java tecnology, seeking to develop and deploy Android rapidly and to capitalize on the large community of Java software developers… Google chose to take its chances and push forward with Java, helping itself to Oracle’s intellectual property without a license.”
So because of Android, not only are all of its major manufacturing partners involved in litigation, but now Google is too. To me, it looks like the company cut a lot of corners in a rush to get its mobile OS to market, and now it’s paying for it.
What’s your take on Google’s long list of patent woes?