The end of Apple’s thermonuclear war?

“When Steve Jobs famously said he’d go ‘thermonuclear’ against Android because it was stolen property, and vowed to invest all of Apple’s huge cash hoard to pursue that fight, the statement was taken seriously,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “That Apple began to sue Samsung and other companies for patent infringement was merely the expected follow-up to the promise that Apple would protect its rights.”

“Samsung is, of course, notorious for copying ideas from competitors and using those ideas to build cheaper gear. After an initial flurry of success, things haven’t worked out so well for the South Korean multinational corporation in the smartphone market. With flagging sales and profits, it has become clear that Samsung is being slapped down at both ends of the market by Apple and makers of cheap handsets in Asia,” Steinberg writes. “It was also recently reported that the nuclear war with Apple has cost Samsung some one billion dollars in orders for components. Apple has been reported over time to be moving those large purchases to other vendors.”

teinberg writes, “So keeping up the war with Apple isn’t helping Samsung, and that may explain why a truce may be at hand.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

An iPhone with a larger screen option will hurt Samsung immeasurably more than myriad, unending traipses through the legal morass.MacDailyNews, May 2, 2014

Apple’s products came first, then Samsung’s:

Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Tab Trade Dress Infringement

Here’s what Google’s Android looked like before and after Apple’s iPhone:

Google Android before and after Apple iPhone

Here’s what cellphones looked like before and after Apple’s iPhone:
cellphones before and after Apple iPhone

Related article:
Apple, Samsung agree to end patent suits outside U.S. – August 6, 2014


  1. Apple sent its message. Once the legal fire was directed at Samsung in earnest in 2012, their phone designs changed from iPhone clones to plastic giganta-phones. I don’t think it was coincidence.

    1. Actually, the lawsuit helped Samsung (and Android in general). Android was not selling precisely because they were cheap copies of a far superior product. The lawsuit forced a level of innovation and differentiation (phablets, new features to the OS, and an OS that could actually support the new features) that actually made Samsung (and to a lesser extent some other players) financially successful and relevant.

      That may be the reason why Android tablets are not selling. They are still inferior iPad copies, meaning that the only ones worth buying are the Asus MeMo Pad 7/8 (64 bit CPU running KitKat for $150) and even there only 1 GB of RAM stinks (why put out a 64 bit TABLET if it is only going to have 1 GB of RAM!?!?) or maybe the Kindles (sadly still only 32 bit). Samsung tried to replicate their “phablet” success by putting out a 12.2 inch Galaxy Pro that they stated could be a laptop if you wanted to add a keyboard to it, but it didn’t work … Galaxy Pros can now be had on eBay at over 1/3 off retail (a shame too, the hardware was actually pretty good if you can get past the 32 bit part which I can’t but oh well, although TouchWiz stinks so you would have been better off wiping it and putting either base Android or CyanogedMod on it).

      But Xiaomi is only able take business away from Samsung because Samsung had to invent the phablet because Apple was suing them (and their own phones were not selling). Kind of strange how that works. Had Apple allowed them to keep copying and failing, maybe Samsung would have given up and exited the business by now. Instead, they made tens of billions on phablets and spawned a bunch of companies offering mid-range phablets of their own.

      1. @altman, Not True. Android took off because it was the only alternative the Carriers had to Apple’s dominance. They were the one’s that started these giveaways to lessen Apple’s clout. They were afraid that the IPhone would do to them what the IPod did to music.

        1. More specifically, it was the only alternative Verizon and the non-AT&T U.S. competition had to the iPhone. But a good point.

  2. Wow. I did not know that Apple licensed some elements of the Xerox Parc Alta (which incidentally was so impractical that Xerox did not even try to market it because they knew that it was unviable, and it was only Apple’s extensive additions and changes – rendering the final product to be NOTHING LIKE THE Parc Alta – that actually made it, you know, work). Oh well, that takes a major line of attack/counterattack away from this troll. It was based on Microsoft winning that case that I had the “you cannot copyright a look and feel, only the particular implementation of the look and feel” position, but in light of this information I may very well be wrong.

    1. Couple of corrections, Atlman.

      First of all, it’s Xerox’s PARC, for Palo Alto Research Center.

      Secondly, there was no formal license for the Xerox GUI per se. In late 1979, Steve Jobs gave Xerox approximately $1,000,000 of pre-IPO Apple common stock in exchange for two visits to PARC and the right to use anything learned during the visits. Conditions were set that no notes could be taken and no code could be copied, only a visit, questions, look-see, and the conversation was two-way, with the PARC people learning some of what Apple was doing.

      Thirdly, the Xerox Alto, released in 1973, was used only in house at PARC and Xerox. The Xerox Star, which was the commercialized, updated GUI version of the Alto, released in 1981, was marketed and sold by Xerox and Xerox Japan for $16,000 for a single work station, but really needed multiple units so an installation could easily cost $50-100,000. It was viable, but way too costly for any but enterprise level businesses.

      Apple later licensed Ethernet which was developed at PARC. Apple licensed the mouse from Doug Englebart at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where it had been invented in 1964, seven years before PARC’s founding in 1971.

      In 1994, a new CEO at Xerox—unaware of the PARC stock agreement (the stock was sold shortly after the IPO for around $16 million)—attempted to sue Apple over the Mac GUI. . . which failed for untimeliness and also Apple introduced the 1979 agreement as exhibit one. The suit never made it to trial.

      Apple, unlike Microsoft, Android, and Samsung has almost always been religious about licensing any intellectual property it uses. . . or as Steve Jobs joked, “steals.”

      1. Thanks. Great information.
        I hate hearing so many idiots say Apple stole from Xerox…

        It was MS that stole a lot of other peoples’ ideas. Starting with DOS, which was originally named QDOS (Quick & Dirty Operating System) by its creator. Doug Coupland, a Canadian novelist, described Microsoft’s modus operandi very well in his novel, _Microserfs_. (Basically, if another company had a great idea and soon-to-be-released-product, MS would pre-announce that it, too, was working on its own implementation, which obviously stuffed the potential competition. THEN MS would work its ass off to copy the competitor’s product. So sleazy.) Incidentally, Doug Coupland is the one who coined the term ‘Generation X’.

  3. Apple isn’t “ending” the war. They’re just realizing that it’s time for a change in tactics. Hotheaded shooting-from-the-hip with lawsuits doesn’t work. But Apple’s winning the war from an economic standpoint, meaning that they don’t need the misfiring nuclear option.

    “You attacked Samsung before?”
    “Of course. Over the ages our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Samsung we tried a new one: economics.”

    1. What war? Apple never started any war to begin with. I know that it is popular in the Apple community to conflate “Android” with “Samsung” but they are two different things. Android is the operating system created, owned, maintained, and licensed by Google. Samsung is merely one of many OEMs that builds products that run the Google OS. Apple has never at any time gone after Android (or Google) itself or demanded licensing arrangements from Google. Quite the contrast, Apple’s position – officially and formally entered as a matter of legal record at trial – is that Android does not infringe on iOS. Which is why Samsung in their last trial stated that a great part of Apple’s infringement case was based on features that came with the very Android that Apple said did not infringe in their IP. Google’s engineers testified that the features came with Android, and when Apple did not contest it, it was a major reason why the judgment awarded was so small.

      And not only has Apple not sued Google over Android, but the only Android OEM that they have ever sued was Samsung. (In addition, they entered into a voluntary licensing agreement with HTC.) Further, even against Samsung, Apple only challenged – and tried to block the sale of – a few models, based on a few nonessential features that Samsung could easily remove (and did) that made the pre-phablet Samsung Galaxy phones too closely resemble the iPhone. There was speculation that Apple was only going after the lead dog Samsung first and would then take on everybody else, but really that makes no sense. If an OS infringes, you do not go after companies one by one for using the OS, and you especially do not sue over tangential and non-OS features implemented by the company. Instead, you go after the company that created the OS and is licensing it for its commercial purposes. Apple never went after Google, never showed any intentions of doing so (even if they may have had the desire) and are not going to do so.

      As far as Apple winning the war from an economic standpoint … I do not know what that means. Apple is never going to have a monopoly – or even a majority of sales – against Android because Apple prices itself out of most of the market. Right now, Android has 85% of the global market share. Even in a wealthy country like America, Android has a 51% market share. That is not going to change (or at least not very much) just like Apple is never going to get more than the 15% of the PC market for the same reason: pricing. And while Android is not as profitable as Apple (and it is not even close) it is making money for Google and several of their OEM licensees. And as Lollipop shows, the future of Android is to go even further from being an OS used to emulate the iPhone to being a platform that A) is increasingly converging with ChromeOS and B) will be used primarily to deliver content to devices and consumers from Google’s cloud. Which more and more people will access via Google’s own network (Google Fiber in America plus their initiatives to bring 3G and Wi-Fi to developing countries).

      Lollipop was merely Google’s first attempt at taking Android in an entirely new direction. Previous releases of the OS were merely to improve the performance, reliability and user experience provided by the OS. Lollipop did include three more major improvements in that direction by fixing battery drainage issues, incorporating much more security, and switching from Dalvik to ART to gain an (up to) 40% performance boost on apps. These were things that were SUPPOSED to come out in Android KitKat 4.4.4 or Android 4.4.5 but they were not ready so they bled into Lollipop, Android 5.0. (They also added Chromecast support.) But future OS releases will focus on building the platform (which will extend to ANY DEVICE RUNNING A CHROME BROWSER I should point out), further converging Android and Chrome OS (including the ability for Chrome OS – meaning Chromebooks – to run Android apps natively) and getting Android onto more devices than phones and tablets (with wearables via Android Wear, cars via CarPlay and TVs via Android TV being just the beginning). In two years, no one will even be comparing Android to iOS because they will be as different from each other as Mac OS X and Windows 8.1.

      Right now, even the emphases of the two OSes are different. Apple continues to prioritize delivering the best hardware, with tons of hardware innovations coming with iPhone 6, and building the OS to match the hardware. Google meanwhile has spent their time and money on building an OS that can run on cheap hardware. With Apple, the job of iOS is to deliver a user experience based on the premium hardware. With Google, the job of Android (the OS and the larger platform) will be to deliver a user experience centered around Google’s cloud and services.

      So really, there will be no “war” because Google and Apple are different companies – internet services and hardware – pushing a different product. So for some of the things that Apple is doing with the enterprise and continuity … Google isn’t even trying to emulate or compete. Not because they can’t, but rather because their plans for Android are totally different from Apple’s plans for their products. Basically, where Apple is selling hardware that uses the cloud to work, Google is selling the cloud that needs hardware to get to.

      So, to each his own, and maybe the back-and-forth between Android and Apple partisans will end. It will be particularly beneficial to Google’s OEM partners if they cease trying to compete with Apple’s hardware prowess and just let the Android platform be the selling point, because no one is ever going to be able to beat Apple’s tech.

      1. apple didn’t go after google not because Google didn’t steal but because it can’t (as judges have pointed out) GET ANYTHING FROM GOOGLE, as Google has stated it makes NO MONEY DIRECTLY from selling Android, it gives it out free. In a civil suit you like this you can’t recover monies as Google has said it has made no money. ALSO you can’t even get punitive damages as Judge Koh has pointed in the Samsung trial “it is very hard for Apple to prove it has been HURT financially”. As Apple makes 60-70% of all cell phone profits in the world i.e more than all the android OEMS put together how can it prove that Google Android has hurt it? It can’t.

        Apple can go after Samsung because Samsung DOES make significant money off phones, it makes the other 30% of the cell phone profits of the world. (it doesn’t go after the smaller OEMS as they either make peanuts or loses money like Motorola, HTC – which as you pointed out has an apple license agreement ) But Apple’s actual aim was just to stop Samsung from copying features in the iPhone and it has won court judgements on BOTH design and OS grounds. Apple can go after Samsung (instead of Google) over android because Samsung IS making money from the stolen OS. Unfortunately Apple has trouble collecting it’s victories as again Judges like Koh has said Apple isn’t really hurt SIGNIFICANTLY financially (and has refused banning many infringing samsung devices). Judge Posner echoed that and has said ‘consumer choice’ trumps Apple’s patent rights.

        The amount of money spent by Apple on court cases is equal to more than entire profits of the smaller Android OEMS for years. Even the big ones like Lenovo make only about 200 m in profit a quarter (and that is counting PCs)

        Apple has stopped limitation because as can be seen from Samsung now floundering in sales it has won in all significant areas AND because the legal systems of the world is not on it’s side (as it makes all the money and far out (left?) judges like Posner want’ to ‘protect consumer choice’ ).

  4. Anybody who has dealt with lawyers knows that the lawyers always win. It’s much cheaper to resolve disputes by other means if possible.

    By transferring orders away from Samsung and to Samsung’s rivals, not only does Samsung lose billions of dollars of orders each year ( not just this year ), but they also have to watch their rivals becoming much more successful and becoming more competitive for the future.

    Taiwan has been awarded such huge contracts from Apple that it had a noticeable effect on the entire Taiwanese economy.

    The legal system didn’t protect apple from companies who copied Apple’s products, so Apple has changed tack and is punishing Samsung in a much more effective manner. The pain isn’t just a one off thing, Apple can keep that pain happening for as long as it chooses to.

    Apple now now has multiple sources for components that previously were exclusively available from Samsung. Apple will be able to negotiate from a very much stronger position when it comes to future purchasing contracts. Even if Samsung wins future orders from Apple, they won’t be anything like so profitable as they used to be.

  5. This war was over before it started. No company wins these kinds of suits. Apple should be flattered that Samsung bothered to slavishly copy them. There is no redress in capitalism. samsung has won every one of these battles across multiple industries simply by ignoring the so-called” intellectual property” of others. Their method has been to tie things up in court and proceed anyway.

    in the end the knock off is still moderately successful and the money rolls in.

    If you think that these lawsuits would have a material effect on this company, think again. It’s never happened. It never will.

    A billion dollars is far less to pay than if this particular corporation had to create a competitive product. Do you think it cost Apple less money to develop its iDevices?

  6. This should have been about google not samdung!
    Samdung is paying the price for being the lowlife thugs they are..
    But when is the real copycat GOOGLE going to pay the price ! .??

  7. There is no more reason to continue legal wrangling. Samsung is on the ropes, and declining. Apple taking their component business away will be one of the last straws.

    Stick a fork in Samsung.

  8. Sadly, it turned out that Apple’s patent arsenal — with which Steve was going to go “thermonuclear” against infringers — were not at all useful …due to a failure of the US court system. One example will highlight how pathetically slow our legal system is:

    The Supreme court recently ruled that a company called _Pom Wonderful_ can sue Coca Cola because Coca Cola calls one of its offerings: “POMEGRANATE BLUEBERRY Flavored Blend of Juices” when, in fact, it contains less than 0.5% of pomegranate juice. BUT IT HAS TAKEN THE COMPANY (POM WONDERFUL) 5 YEARS TO REACH THIS POINT !!!

    This highlights the snail-speed with which our US legal system works. Pathetic. Our legal system is inadequate to the needs of the modern ear, when fortunes are made and lost in periods much shorter than 5 years.

    Anyway, so much for thermonuclear patents. It is time to go guerrilla combat. Go Apple!

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