What If Steve Jobs Is Right?

Apple has been engaged in heated legal battles around the world claiming that Android smartphones and tablets infringe on its patents. Android loyalists see the legal attacks as a desperate, oppressive move by Apple to stifle competition, but perhaps the success of Android is a function of the ways it "borrows" Apple intellectual property.

According to leaked excerpts from the Steve Jobs biography which will be officially released tomorrow, Jobs is quoted saying, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Android is the primary competitor of iOS in the mobile arena.
Jobs is also credited with stating, "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong."

Sleeping With the Enemy

It doesn't take too much imagination to understand how Android could be a knock-off of iOS. Apple and Google were buddies--allies against Microsoft in that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of way. Google's CEO--now Chairman--Eric Schmidt was a personal friend of Steve Jobs and sat on the Apple board of directors.

Seeing Google and Schmidt as partners against Microsoft--more importantly partners that didn't compete directly in key areas like mobile devices and operating systems--Apple and Jobs would have felt comfortable sharing details of iOS. Schmidt was in a position to get confidential information on the strategy and vision for the future of the iPhone and possibly even the embryonic concepts of the iPad.

I am not suggesting Schmidt set out to infiltrate Apple in an act of corporate espionage. It is possible, however, that Schmidt saw the genius of the Apple roadmap, but disagreed on certain aspects of implementation--like the "walled garden" approach of Apple--and decided to build a more open version of the same thing with Android.

Perhaps Schmidt "stole" from iOS without even being conscious of it.

An Inside Job

When it comes to Samsung, things get even stickier. Not only is Samsung using Android as the operating system in its flagship smartphones and tablets, and now portable music players, but Samsung devices are identical in form and design as well. The Samsung smartphones and tablets are virtually identical hardware to Apple mobile devices, running an operating system that seems to "borrow heavily" from Apple software concepts.

Like Schmidt with the iOS software, Samsung was in a somewhat unique position to know intimate details of the Apple hardware and architecture. Samsung is a key supplier of chips and displays for Apple smartphones and tablets, and may have had inside knowledge that it employed in developing its own competing devices.

Maybe the reason that Samsung is the number two maker of smartphones behind Apple, and the reason that the Samsung Galaxy Tabs seem to be the only Android tablet enjoying some sense of success in the market is because they so closely mirror the Apple iPhone and iPad.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter

Comments