Apple vs. Samsung with a side of Sony: Vertical integration wars

The Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit documents have a lot of Sony Style references. Why? Apple, Samsung and Sony are all chasing the same vertical integration strategy.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

If there's any question what Apple has become look no farther than the never-ending patent and copyright bickering with Samsung to give you an answer. Apple used to be compared to PC makers and Microsoft. The reality is Apple's vertically integrated model is much more Samsung and Sony these days.

The documents being volleyed between Samsung and Apple ahead of a courtroom showdown in the Northern District Court of California this week reveal little agreement. Apple claims Samsung has ripped off its technology. Samsung has a similar counter claim. Meanwhile, Samsung says that Apple was ripping off Sony's style anyway. A judge shot down most of Samsung's Sony Style emulation argument.

The stakes are obviously high. Apple wants to nail Samsung and stop its products at the border. Samsung wants to sell its wares. In the middle of this mess sits Google, which has the Android operating system that Apple really wants to derail.

While the judge won't allow Samsung's Sony argument, the similarities between Samsung, Sony and Apple are everywhere.

  • Each company integrates products via multiple angles and components (many of which are controlled by them).
  • Samsung and Apple have their own chips.
  • Screens are increasingly in the mix.
  • Sony plays the content integration game. So does Apple. Samsung to some degree.
  • All three players want customer experiences that delight. Apple has been most successful.
  • All three players have supply chain clout.

These similarities will become increasingly apparent when Apple rolls out its own television set. Then the competition with Samsung and Sony will really pick up.


The reality here is obvious. Of course, Apple looked at Sony products. A transcript of a video deposition with Apple's Richard Howarth makes the Sony case. Samsung wanted to point out that Apple designer Shin Nishibori mocked up a Sony-inspired iPhone. So? Of course, Nishibori would have had some Sony comparison. Sony history is worth exploring and thinking about. Samsung obviously checked out Apple products and vice versa. The nuance here is judging when looking at rival products and emulating them goes too far.

And that's where it gets very messy. This trial between Apple and Samsung will have a bevy of moving parts, but the big picture is that the two companies are battling for vertically integrated consumer electronics dominance. Smartphones, tablets and operating systems today. Tomorrow it'll be TVs and living room hubs.

Here's a look at some of the more interesting docs. 


Sony Style 072912


Apple Object 072912

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