Is Android a stolen product?

Jobs: "I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

Excerpts of the upcoming Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson are doing the rounds, and it's all fascinating stuff. But there's one but that I keep coming back to, and that is what Steve Jobs thought of Google's Android mobile operating system.

It's clear that Jobs really didn't like Android:

"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 [at the time ... this has grown massively since], 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."

In a meeting in March of 2010 with Eric Schmidt, then Google's chief executive, at a cafe in Palo Alto, California, Jobs made it clear he wasn't interested in settling lawsuits:

"I don't want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won't want it. I've got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that's all I want."

And it's this mindset that has led to the seemingly endless patent infringement lawsuits between Apple and Android device makers. As I've pointed out before, Apple doesn't need the hassle of scrabbling for nickels and dimes in patent loot (like Microsoft is doing) because the company already has more cash than it knows what to do with. Apple's not litigating for money, it's doing so to keep the iPhone unique.

The areas of conflict between Apple and Android are well known and include features such as numbers and addresses being turned into clickable links, icons on a touch screen and the use of the pinching gesture for resizing.

But is it 'stealing'?

[UPDATE: Some readers have asked for my opinion here (so they can flame me ... LOL!). Honestly, I don't know. The iPhone was certainly revolutionary in its time in that it was a complete touchscreen device, and since then hundreds of clones have sprung up. But patents are tough to interpret and it is hard to distinguish between inspiration and rip-off. Some aspects of Android, based on my reading of patents, certainly do seem to have stolen from the iPhone. But patents are notoriously complex and ultimately these issues have to be decided by a court.]

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