Samsung’s $1 billion loss to Apple last week may have widespread repercussions, including Google’s Android software. What previously was a proxy cold war with cell phone makers, the stand-in soldiers, could heat up dramatically and place the Mountain View, Calif. firm squarely in the middle of Apple’s legal radar and making Steve Jobs’ threatened “thermonuclear war” over Android a reality.
That legal war “is drawing closer to Google’s doorstep,” reports the New York Times. The court ruling that Samsung violated Apple patents related to changing a screen’s view or tapping to zoom closer are all part of Android. Indeed, Google just recently removed from Android a feature that bounces your iOS screen to indicate you’ve reached the bottom. Dumping that feature from Android was more out of “design reasons” than Samsung’s courtroom defeat, a source told the Times.
One analyst believes Samsung’s loss will prompt Google to get its Android patent house in order.
“What it means for the Android folks is a very careful review, back to the drawing board, including a close examination of Apple’s stable of patents to weed out anything that looks risky,” Forrester’s Charles Golvin said.
Google is also lending legal support to its hardware partners, the Times reports. Until recently, Google could keep Apple at arm’s length, releasing statements that lawsuits against handset makers “don’t relate to the core Android operating system.” Because the Internet giant doesn’t directly financially benefit from the free Android software, Apple viewed Samsung and other Android device makers as softer targets.
Then came Motorola Mobility. When Google purchased the Android handset manufacturer, not only did it gain more control over the end-to-end process along with a boatload of patents, the acquisition also provided a more direct entry for legal challengers.
But the patent picture is not lopsided in Apple’s favor. Along with Google Maps, Google search is part of the iPhone’s Safari. Other popular Google apps, such as Gmail, could be pulled from Apple’s App Store.
It is possible Apple and Google could form some sort of frenemies relationship akin to that in place with Samsung. Although Apple sued Samsung repeatedly, the Cupertino, Calif. company still uses components from the South Korean company in its iPhone and iPad.