Microsoft and Apple unleash thermonuclear war on Google and Android

Former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs promised to "destroy Android" because it was "a stolen product" and said that he was "willing to go thermonuclear war" on the platform. This could be that war.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Former Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs didn't like Android and told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he would "destroy Android" because it was "a stolen product" before going on to say that he was "willing to go thermonuclear war" on the platform.

"I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion the money that Apple held in the bank at the time] in the bank, to right this wrong," Jobs told Isaacson.

Though Jobs is not around to see it, that thermonuclear war may now have been unleashed

The Rockstar Consortium, a joint venture owned by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson, and Sony, have kicked into motion a barrage of lawsuits against a raft of defendants that include Google, Samsung, LG Electronics, HTC, and Huawei. In other words, all big players in the Android market.

Rockstar bought the patents being used here during Nortel's bankruptcy auction. At the time it was clear that Google understood the value of these patents because the company bid as much as $4.4 billion in order to get its hands on them. Rockstar outbid the search giant with a $4.5 billion bid.

The lawsuit charges the companies with a number of patent infringements, the most damaging of which may be that Google infringes patents by matching search terms to relevant advertising on mobile devices. This could have a huge effect on Google because the company's game plan with Android relies on giving away the operating system in order to make money via advertising.

The Rockstar Consortium, which is what is known in the business as a non-practicing entity, or, less generously, a "patent troll," is a company created specifically to buy and sell patents, without creating any actual products or innovations themselves. And while it has been quiet for the past couple of years, it seems that it has been spending that time reverse-engineering Android devices with the express intent of finding patent violations.

These latest barrage of lawsuits seem to be the fruits of that effort.

These lawsuits are particularly damaging to the Android machine because they target it on two fronts:

  • First, there's a precision attack on Google, one that targets the company's revenue source from Android. If Google can't find a way to make money from Android, the project becomes a huge liability.
  • Secondly, it hits the hardware OEMs, going after them for potentially more money in the form of Android licensing fees. Microsoft is already extracting cash from Android OEMs in the form of royalties, earnings that are estimated to grow to $8.8 billion annually by 2017. The more the OEMs have to pay out per device, the smaller their margins become, and the less viable Android is as a business. Even the litigation stage is likely to be painfully costly.

Apple and Microsoft might seem like a very unlikely pairing, but as the old proverb goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And right now Android is a major thorn in the side of both the Cupertino and Redmond giant. 

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