"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. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
This is what Steve Jobs thought of Android, as recounted in Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Apple CEO. Since these words were uttered, Apple has been involved in an intense legal battle with Google and other device makers over Android, and it seems that the courts are siding with Apple that Android is indeed 'a stolen product.'
The latest battle has been over this simple user interface element:
That 'slide to unlock' mechanism is a feature that was put into the Android mobile platform, and now a German court has ruled that Motorola's use of this on certain devices infringes on Apple's patent. This is bad news for Android because it could mean that Android device sales in Germany could be halted.
Note: The ruling doesn't apply to Motorola's Xoom tablet because that uses the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" software and is unlocked by dragging a padlock icon out of a circle.
How Apple is approaching Android litigation is at polar opposites to the tactic undertaken by Microsoft. Microsoft is happy to license patents and collect royalties from Android handset makers, turning the platform into a cash cow. Apple on the other hand doesn't seem interested in licensing patents, preferring litigation to make life difficult for Android handset makers. Jobs wanted to destroy Android, and it seems that things haven't changed under Tim Cook's leadership. The company seems committed to waging a long-term war on Android.
Anyone who has used both Android and iOS can't help but notice how much of a similarity there is between the two platforms, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Android was, at the very least, inspired by iOS. And now Android is paying the price.
But Android isn't the only platform that seems to be benefiting from 'borrowing' ideas from Apple. What about the Windows 8 unlock screen? Every time I swipe to unlock, it reminds me of unlocking my iPhone or iPad ... and it's hard to imagine that folks at Apple haven't noticed this.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone to the world back in 2007, and he said 'boy, have we patented it,' he wasn't kidding. And now Android is reaping the whirlwind of that patenting extravaganza.