Analyst: Apple’s tough talk and HTC lawsuit have shaken handset makers’ faith in Google’s Android

“Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner issued a behind-the-scenes report Tuesday that sheds a lot of light on the patent suits Apple (AAPL) filed last week against HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone maker,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune. “Citing ‘industry checks,’ Reiner writes that:

Starting in January, Apple launched a series of C-Level discussions with tier-1 handset makers to underscore its growing displeasure at seeing its iPhone-related IP [intellectual property] infringed. The lawsuit filed against HTC thus appears to be Apple’s way of putting a public, lawyered-up exclamation point on a series of blunt conversations that have been occurring behind closed doors.

Our checks also suggest that these warning shots are meaningfully disrupting the development roadmaps for would-be iPhone killers. Rival software and hardware teams are going back to the drawing board to look for work-arounds. Lawyers are redoubling efforts to gauge potential defensive and offensive responses. And strategy teams are working to chart OS strategies that are better hedged.

Elmer-DeWitt reports, “In the months that followed, major handset manufacturers — including LG, Samsung, and Nokia — stayed clear of multi-touch… [but] that deference began to evaporate in late 2009 with the arrival of two mult-touch smartphones: the Motorola (MOT) Droid and the HTC Eris. Reiner writes:”

Top-tier handset makers continued to avoid implementing multi-touch, but Apple could safely assume that they were hanging back to gauge Apple’s response to Motorola and HTC. If there wasn’t one, the OEMs would likely read the silence as a green light, especially after Google also moved to enable multi-touch on its Nexus One phone.

It was likely in order to counter that perception that Apple began reaching out to handset OEMs in January and explaining in no uncertain terms that it was now ready to do battle–and not just on multi-touch. It was ready to press its case along a number of axes that had made the iPhone experience unique, from the interpretation of touch gestures, to object-oriented OS design, to the nuts and bolts of how hardware elements were built and configured.

Elmer-DeWitt reports, “According the Reiner, the combination of tough talk and a high-profile lawsuit have had their intended effect:”

Until recently, most high-end smartphone programs were focused primarily on trying to match the iPhone’s user experience, and secondarily on avoiding any egregious violations of Apple’s patents.

We believe this order of priorities has temporarily changed — along with the industry’s appreciation for how far Apple is willing to extend the fight. Few OEMs believe that simply staying clear of multi-touch can, on its own, avert Apple’s wrath. We believe a lot of software and hardware is being sent back to engineering departments for work-arounds.

It’s too early to know how Apple’s legal action against HTC will ultimately play out, or whether Apple will have the appetite to launch additional battles with other OEMs. But in the near term, Apple’s legal actions appear to have temporarily left competitors playing catch-up with their shoelaces tied.

Full article, which also explains how handset makers may switch their attentions from the patently problematic Google’s Android to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Series, here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote the day Apple filed suit against HTC: “A sickening chill just swept through the executive offices of many an iPhone wannabe. This time there’s no poorly-written contract signed by an unprepared sugared water salesbozo.”

As far as Apple’s concerned, Google and Microsoft can fight it out over the iPhone wannabe market forever. Apple has them right where they want them: Receding in the rear-view mirror, scuffling with each other under heavy scrutiny from patent lawyers.

You’d better carefully watch which features you add, boys, you aren’t going to steal it from Apple this time around.

Google’s going to rue the day they got greedy by deciding to try to work against Apple instead of with them.

We’ve been pushing the state-of-the-art in every facet of design… We’ve been innovating like crazy for the last few years on this and we’ve filed for over 200 patents for all of the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them.Apple CEO Steve Jobs when unveiling iPhone, January 9, 2007

We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP, in which case we will go after them. We will not stand for having our IP ripped-off and we will use any weapons at our disposal [to stop it].Apple COO Tim Cook, January 21, 2009

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Steve A.” for the heads up.]


  1. “…Rival software and hardware teams are going back to the drawing board to look for work-arounds…”

    And therein lies the problem. If you’re going to go back to the drawing board, go back and freaking create something better that will blow people’s minds. Don’t try to find work-arounds to iPhone patent infringements. Jeez.

    Is that all that people can do? Copy Apple? I’m starting to believe that MDN may be right.

  2. “…no poorly-written contract signed by an unprepared sugared water salesbozo.”

    The end result of which was that the only element of the original Mac OS that Apple could say it “owned” was the trash can. Just where is John Sculley nowadays – dreaming about knowledge navigators?

  3. …”Just where is John Sculley nowadays – dreaming about knowledge navigators?”

    Apparently, in Palm Beach, FL (most likely playing golf). He seems to also be on some advisory board for some mobile marketing technology company…

  4. And still HP is churning out demo vids of its Slate product that is almost an exact replica of the iPad. They distinctly show multi-touch gestures identical to those in iPhone OS. I’m curious to know what, if any, impact this HTC lawsuit is having on that program.

  5. But how are they supposed to make modern tech devices if they can’t copy everything Apple developed? It’s been the primary R&D;for the entire industry for the last two and a half decades.

    Otherwise we’d still be arguing over whether amber lines of code on black is better than green.

  6. Helps you understand why Apple feels “secure” with $40B in the bank. Other companies understand that Apple has unlimited legal staying power and its adversaries will not be able to get a favorable settlement by wearing Apple down.

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