“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. … I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion… to right this wrong.”
– Steve Jobs
I don’t know if Aaron Sorkin was listening, but the coda of the Steve Jobs story may have been written in San Jose this week.
While Jobs was alive, his MacWorld keynote was timed to steal the thunder from the Consumer Electronics Show, the industry’s largest trade show and Vegas’ biggest event of the year.
The most notable event at CES this past January, to me, was the juxtaposition of three iconic national brands: Sony of Japan as Christmas Past, Apple of the US (Christmas Present) and Samsung of South Korea (vying hard for Christmases Future).
Sony had Earth Wind & Fire playing live at their booth. There wasn’t much else. Consumer elctronics industry is not a game Japan can compete in these days.
Apple doesn’t show up at CES.
Samsung, on the other hand, had a massive booth full of new blooms, cell phones in a ton of models across the spectrum of carriers. Most notable was the Samsung Note, a device sized between a smartphone and a tablet. And well before the advent of an iPad Mini (widely expected to be announced this October).
The overwhelming feeling you came away with was that Samsung had taken their leadership beyond displays and solidly into mobile. It was easy for an iPhone user to leave Vegas rationalizing the idea of a second phone.
Not so fast.
The notion that Samsung was getting awfully close to the look and feel of iPhone eventually led to what’s widely regarded as the most interesting IP trial of the decade.
Samsung is by far the most successful producer of Android phones. Apple has argued that a number of features on Samsung devices –such as the “bounce” at the bottom of a scrolling list, the “pinch” feature, and the nature of the app icons themselves – not only echo those introduced by iPhone, but constitute theft.
Apple asserted at least eight Samsung phones, including the Galaxy S II and Verizon’s Droid Charge, are based on stolen IP and should be removed from the market. Other potentially impacted devices are listed here.
A series of suits and countersuits between Apple and its sometime supplier/biggest competitor resulted. This week, those proceedings concluded with a knockout.
Apple won on 6 of 7 patent issues, and was awarded $1.051 billion by the jury. What’s more, the jury decided that many of the infringements were deliberate. The language and tone of Samsung executives was viewed as, if not downright oily, at least disingenuous. Which, according to the foreman of the jury, is why they delivered unto Apple over $1 billion after less than three days of deliberation.
Why does this matter? For one thing, Android is not going away: IDC pegs Android/Google at 105 million units and 68.1% market share, up from 47% a year ago. It puts iOS at 26 million units, 16.9 percent share – down from 18.8%. The Court’s findings, powered by current and future injunctions, are likely to force Apple’s competitors to move away from Apple motifs and into new areas of interface and utility. Which is ultimately good for users.
The world will continue to change, and Apple’s consumer experience leadership may eventually ebb. But it hasn’t yet, and the founder of America’s most valuable company seems to have been vindicated one more time.