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GUEST BLOG: Apple's patent victory over Samsung is good for Android

Galen Gruman | Aug. 28, 2012
Fretting over a chilling effect on Android is misguided: The ruling should now spur innovation in Google's mobile platform

When Apple is on a crusade, watch out. Look what happened in less than a year after Hon Hai's Foxconn plants' inhumane working conditions were exposed: The factory makes many Apple products, so Apple took the heat for allowing the poor working conditions to exist. Apple responded by forcing changes on Hon Hai that have already been validated as real. All the other Silicon Valley companies have said and apparently done nothing, though they use the same and similar plants and so perpetuated the same abuses.

Because Apple has made the mobile patents fight so public and so much of a cause, it has forced the Android market to rethink its usual strategy of deriving its products from the work of others. Let's face it: Most of what we've seen in Android and especially Android devices is clearly "inspired" by what Apple and others have done. Yes, Apple has also been "inspired" by Android, so it's a two-way street. But the Android side has been far more so.

As a result of Apple's legal attack, Samsung's latest crown jewels -- the Galaxy Note phablet, Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, and Galaxy S III smartphone -- bring real innovation to the table. They're also much stronger competitors to Apple's products. One unintended consequence on Samsung has been to force it to be more innovative, which will only help Samsung compete with not just Apple but with other Android device makers.

If you look at the Android community, it's Samsung that owns the lion's share of the market, while HTC, Asus, and the rest have become minor providers of largely generic devices. Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, has been less innovative than Samsung but more so than the rest, occupying a middle ground also reflected in its middling market success.

Apple's crusade will force Android device makers, and Google for the operating system, to focus more on real innovation than on adopting versions of Apple innovations. Those up to the challenge -- and Samsung at least is -- will prosper and make Android better as a result. The others will languish as generic device makers found in bargain stores. There's money to be made there, but not a lot. And there's certainly no innovation that comes from the generics business.

Samsung in particular will benefit. It's become the face of the Android side in the mobile battle, and in many people's minds has become not a generic maker of Android devices but an equal to Apple because most people now see this as an Apple/Samsung battle. Apple has elevated Samsung's street cred, which Samsung has the ability to take advantage of.


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