The tech industry is all abuzz over the Apple lawsuit claiming HTC is infringing on 20 of Apple’s patents. While commonly felt that Apple is really hitting Google over the Android platform, it may go deeper than that. Apple may be scared of the Chrome OS.

Chrome Tablet thumb

You have likely heard about the lawsuit Apple has filed against HTC claiming patent infringement. Kevin offered a good analysis of the suit and how it claims HTC is using Apple technology from the iPhone. Basically Apple doesn’t like what HTC is doing with Android on the phones it is selling in the U.S., as they claim it uses various technology developed in Cupertino for the iPhone. Much has been said that the real target of Apple’s suit is Google Android, as the smartphone OS is growing at a fast clip. I suspect that is true, but I think Apple’s fears go even deeper. I think the scheduled appearance of the Chrome OS later this year has Apple tied up in knots.

Chrome OS is the operating system based on the Chrome browser that has generated a lot of interest from both enthusiasts and companies producing hardware since the Chrome OS announcement. It is intended to be an alternative OS for cheap netbook-like devices, and is aimed squarely at the mainstream consumer. Google expects to capitalize on its familiar brand, and use the Chrome OS to push its online services into the device category.

The Chrome browser is already available on Macs, and getting good reviews from enthusiasts. Apple’s core customer base is already exposed to Chrome, and liking it. Since the Chrome OS is the Chrome browser on steroids, it may appeal to loyal Mac customers, too. That’s a direct threat to Apple.

The impending launch of Chrome OS probably has Apple a bit concerned, but I suspect Google’s desire to see a Chrome OS Tablet hit the market ratchets that concern up to a decent level. A Chrome OS Tablet will compete directly with the Apple iPad, and Apple has a lot riding on the iPad. A Google Tablet would compare feature-wise with the iPad, and possibly surpass it given the full OS nature of Chrome OS. It’s not just the iPhone OS grown up, it will be a full OS built on a real desktop browser. That’s got to cause Apple some discomfort.

So what does Chrome OS have to do with the HTC lawsuit? It is logical that Apple is suing HTC because they are the biggest maker of Android smartphones. HTC is the maker of Google’s own Nexus One. But the real target of the suit is the Android platform, as that is what is the basis of HTC’s features that are allegedly “infringing” on Apple’s patents. Google has already stated that Android and Chrome OS would likely merge in the future to form one platform, one that can run full computers and smartphones. That’s got to tie Apple’s undies in a knot.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

With the iPad, Apple Takes Google to the Mat

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  1. GoodThings2Life Thursday, March 4, 2010

    I said it before, and I’ll say it now…

    This is Apple shooting Google in the kneecaps since they can’t get away with shooting them in the head… this way it gives them a chance to cry out in “self-defense” in a lame attempt to look like the good guy.

    Fortunately, I’ve never trusted anyone/anything peddling this particular fruit…

  2. This is nit picking, butttttt, you need to add “alleged infringement” to you comments. Just because Apple says it, doesn’t mean it’s so.

    1. Good point, and changed.

    2. “Just because Apple says it, doesn’t mean it’s so.”

      HERESY! Burn him! :^D

  3. the funny part is, if Googles software 1 day takes over the world they could never be called a monopoly since they give it all away for free.

    its becoming more & more clear that Googles new age business model is far more sophisticated that MS/Apples old school business model. its so transparent & natural, people using the internet to make Google money is almost like breathing oxygen too make money, its seemingly unstoppable, Google has nothing to “sale”.

    1. You make a very fair point about Google’s “Do no evil” approach to taking over the world.

  4. Would be nice if a “GooglePad” were announced in the next few weeks.

  5. Wow you really went far out on this one. Pure speculation should produce a blog post when things like this happen all the time.(nokia vs apple) do you really think chrome os will get leopard users to abandon os x? Yea that’s like ubuntu taking I’ve windows. Please right stuff that new and not 2 to 3 days old. Engadget already covered in lenghty way. Where is the creativity and innovation for this blog. What happened? Where are the reviews and insights? Now all I read is about Denny’s wifi and rants about which device to take to Denny’s. This have blog has turned to windows mobile and needs a complete kernal overhual

    1. OK I’ll say it…If you don’t like the content then go. In any case, this was the first mention I had seen that proposes a connection between ChromeOS and Apple’s lawsuit. That’s a thought provoking hypothesis even if you don’t agree with it.

  6. Thanks jk, great article & look forward to more intelligent, independent minded pieces on apple (& google) hypocrisies

  7. Daniel Cawrey Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Apple is going to go head-to-head against Google in the cloud. They buy the Lala music after a bidding war, now Google has purchased the tastefully spelled Picnik image editing web app. This is just a natural progression that Apple would now sue Google’s top hardware partner.

    Apple will be battling in the cloud, check out their new $1 billion data center in North Carolina:


  8. I think you are correct that Apple’s actions are aimed at more than just Android-based smartphones. The Android smartphone market is already loose in the wild. Remember that we are dealing with a global marketplace. Apple’s very expensive protectionist move is focused on the US market.

    But I disagree that Chrome OS is aimed squarely at the mainstream consumer. What does the mainstream consumer gain from Chrome OS vs Android? Not much. It’s not sexy. Does it do games? Music? Not so much. The real value proposition for Chrome OS seems to be for institutional and large business applications where the administrative savings would scale immensely.

    The Apple vs HTC lawsuits may also be a warning to potential competitors to the iPad. Apple had two years to develop the iPhone market. Putting together an Android-based iPad clone is not going to be a huge challenge for many vendors. Estimates are that Android-based tablets will be available within a few months. Apple may be trying to slow down that flood in order to give the “iPad experience” an opportunity to sink in as they try to develop a new market.

    1. Ive all ready got an android tablet :) got my archos 9 with andriod os x86 running its awesoeme

  9. Krishna Botnet Thursday, March 4, 2010

    The Google Cloud is casting a ginormous shadow over all the tech players, even Microsoft is running scared and trying to get the gubmint to investigate Google’s practices.

    Apple is fighting them head on and they are not afraid to attack on the battlefield. This will be a long and bloody war that will define who will lead the mobile internet for years to come.

    So far everybody and their brother is in a mad rush to copy Apple’s ecosystem. Sony wants to mirror Apple, product for product, in the most blatant display of a lack of vision shown since Microsoft illegally copied the MacIntosh GUI down to individual widgets.

    1. Krishna,
      While I agree with you that Google has the best overall cloud computing experience you do not need to turn this into an Apple vs. Microsoft debate as well. The slight underhanded comment that Microsoft can’t take on Google and has to use the government to do its bidding was nice. I also like the touch saying that Apple is “fighting them [Google] head on and they are not afraid to attack on the battlefield” which is not accurate either. Apple is not suing Google here but instead also using an underhanded approach by attacking a close manufacturer that Google uses.

      I also like the comment about how everyone, including Sony wants to be Apple, where I assume the “stolen” PS3 idea came from. So far there is no evidence or legal action showing that Microsoft has stolen the Mac UI either. Were touch screens and tablets Apple’s ideas too? Don’t just type slander without evidence or at least a fair argument.

  10. It seems to me that almost everyone is taking everyone to court over IP related to UIs and multitouch in the mobile phone space. I don’t necessarily think Apple is targeting Chrome OS, although it does seem like HTC was rumored to be working on a tablet just after Chrome OS was announced, just before the iPad announcement. Subsequently, HTC denied working on or admitted to abandoning plans for a tablet. Where all of that is came from, would be interesting to find out.

    Anyway, although I don’t think Apple is primarily concerned about Chrome OS, I do think that these companies have decided that it’s time to test their IP holdings in court — even though to the inexperienced, non-technical person, all the IP appears to overlap each other and to have been largely untested by courts. And I also think that Apple wants to protect its growing iPhone OS-multitouch ecosystem for as long as possible, in order to take it to a new level with minimal competition — to give it the iPad a few years on its own, so to speak, while the novel features of the iPhone are mimicked by competitors.

    Finally, it seems relevant to point out that Apple has much more money now than it has had in the past. Ultimately, that both makes it a bigger target and also creates a bigger incentive for Apple to protect the source of its revenue, as well as representing more resources with which to do that. I’m not inherently on any company’s side on this issue — all these decisions to go to court (and probably to settle out of court) seem to make sense to me. If anything, I personally feel that UI patents don’t make any sense at all anyway — I don’t see why someone should be able to patent anything related to our ability to use our hands in meaningful ways.

    1. Cobalt,
      I agree with almost all of what you said and especially agree with the idea that general common sense UI patents that involve normal gestures and things should not be patentable.

Comments have been disabled for this post