Apple vs. HTC: It’s About Chrome

31 Comments

You have likely heard about the lawsuit Apple (s aapl) 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 (s goog) 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

31 Comments

Mr. Resnick

Chrome OS sounds pretty neat. But this article is poorly written, and has kindergarden level repetition of the same ‘Apple must be worried’ line too many times.

I don’t care about iPhone/iPad OS, but rather the functionality of the device. Apple, allow flash on your devices. Jeez, so annoying.

1984 mack

You guys are all acting like Apple is the bad guy and is running scared. The truth is that Apple has been the LEAST likely company to sue, and virtually always is sued by others because of its rich assets and rarely asserts its own rights except when necessary. The minute Apple stands up and says, “wait, that’s our innovation you’re using” the rest of you start screaming at Apple as the bad guy. Wake up. It’s obvious everyone is copying the iPhone and its ecosystem to the best of their ability and to the limits towards which they feel able to get away with. Furthermore, judging patents from blogs and other non-legal, non-professional non-patent attorneys and anylists is no better than coaching a football team from your TV screen. You guys are jumping with your emotions and are not looking for the truth in these situations.

dan

The problem you have got though , is, there isnt much choice when it comes the GUI’s Apple are using that as a point to sue, but how innovative can you be when you got a list of items??? every phone i have ever used has looked like the iPhone GUI even my Sony P900 which predates the iPhone. Apple need to grow up, look at all the stealing they have done, i.e. the names iPad and iPhone, both where copyrighted else where (if your wondering its Fujitsu and Cisco)

Ray

Remember the HTC Touch?

HTC had a registered trademark for a product that was in production long before Apple came along with the iPod Touch. HTC had ever right and expectation to defend its trademark. So what did they do? They backed down and compromised.

Apple is playing the game on the field that U.S. and International Patent and Copyright law has given them and they’re playing it well. They don’t do it out of fear; they do it because under the circumstances it makes business sense.

HTC isn’t the target because they’re the largest Andriod handset manufacturer (thought that’s icing on the cake as far as Apple is concerned), they’re the target for the same reason a cheetah attacks a particular individual in the herd: a perception of weakness…

Thomas

James,
Sorry to steal the comments section a little bit and sorry they were a hair off topic but I like to address misinformation when I can.

I really like the article and started to go through several more of your blog posts and I hope you keep up the good work.

I do agree that Apple is starting to get scared of Google’s growing forays into the mobile space and the OS space but I don’t know if Apple is worried about ChromeOS YET. Android is certainly a growing force and I believe Apple is trying to make an earlier strike at Google’s weakest point in the ever expanding Android chain. (HTC being one of the flagship Android creators and also the Nexus One creator) I just don’t think that ChromeOS is close to being the mass market savior everyone believes it will be. Its COMPLETE reliance on cloud computing is still far off for the mainstream and I don’t see Android and ChromeOS merging anytime soon. Apple has a solid and I believe growing presence in the laptop business and at least for several years, won’t have to worry about Google even thinking about making a dent in that. OSX is ingrained, just as Windows is also now for many people, in the minds of most of its users.
The only place I could see Apple being worried about ChromeOS is in the tablet space but I don’t think that along with not being ready for normal consumption is any closer to being touch ready and fully navigable in a tablet environment.

I love the discussion though.

eric

stop crying apple htc nexus one is a clone its got a better rsoultion screen at 800 by 480 vs ipohnes 320 by 480 a 5mp compared to 3mp camera flash 10 support coming hum maybe apple should copy htc

netwiz

James, everything that I’ve heard about chrome os says that it will not be limited to online only content. I remember a piece kevin did a while ago which basically said that chrome plans to add in browser capabilities to do some offline activities such as playing music off of a usb drive, but I think that is simply not enough to get people to abandon their dedicated applications.
From the article I believe you were positioning chrome os as a competitor to the iPad. I disagree apple is afraid of chrome os for a few reasons. The first being that the ipad supports “actual” applications. The second one would be that, as of yet, it is unknown whether chrome os will be built from the ground up to support touch (I believe strongly that one of the main reasons why microsoft’s tablets have generally failed to capture a large portion of the market is because you can’t simply slap touch on a desktop os.) and finally i believe apple will be using all of their marketing muscle when the iPad is released.
Aside from all of that I would love to see android and chrome merged to run a full desktop os. =D

foreverlost

..and possibly surpass it given the full OS nature of Chrome OS..

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but what’s so ‘full OS’ about Chrome OS, as compared to iPhone OS (on the iPad, that is)? In a way, Chrome OS is nothing more but a pimped-out, stand-alone web browser. If you’re comparing the two OS’es, neither would be any more of a full OS as compared to the other.

Luscious

Aah, the things certain companies do when the fear of losing market share creeps up on them!

It’s funny how Jobs encourages innovation and competition, yet dishes out lawsuits in response to that. Does he seriously believe he is going to win this case and create a monopoly over the smartphone and slate market?

As a consumer, the last thing I would want is one company dictating what other companies making similar technology can do. The fact that Apple hides the true cost of it’s products, provides only vague hardware specs, artificially inflates it’s prices and keeps them high even when components have become outdated/discounted is still a sign of a company that thinks it has proprietary hardware – something that may have been true in the PowerPC days, but not today. Now they are trying to use the same mindset on the software front against Android and Chrome?

What Jobs may win in lawsuits will come back to bite Apple not only in lost market share, but a tarnished image. Consumers win nothing out of this. Not that I care one bit for him or his company, but as an onlooker, this is one wrestling match I would turn away from.

Dave

Apple has every right to sue in my opinion. The other companies are copying the iphone interface, multitouch ,the App store ,you name it they are trying to take it. Too bad that the other companies won’t innovate on their own, with their own ideas.

Thomas

Dave,
I think before you go spouting that Apple will win and everyone is stealing from them that you should check into some of the patents that Apple is using against HTC. Engadget has done several reviews on their patents including here http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/02/apple-vs-htc-a-patent-breakdow and went into more depth in the article at the bottom about Apple vs. Palm.

If you read the link below, Engadet compares some of the patents that Apple has versus a couple of the ones that Palm has. Lots of the patents that people believe Apple has do not really belong to anyone or are not specific to what people believe they are. There is no multi touch patent that Apple owns to be able to sue everyone with and not everyone has stolen from Godsend Apple. In the below article Engadget cites about 4 things from the iPhone including the contact lookup and Call Switch screen that Apple stole from Palm. Apple certainly has patents that they can use to sue Palm, Google, HTC, Microsoft, Nokia or any other number of companies but the fact is that most of those companies can strike back just as hard if not harder.

I can promise you that Nokia and Palm both, alone have more PHONE related patents than Apple.

Patent wars are a very dirty game and the consumer rarely ever wins. It’s also best not to take sides without the proper knowledge.

http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/28/apple-vs-palm-the-in-depth-analysis/

cherkazo

Nice comment. As usual, Apple hoping that ignorance wins and they can create an illusion of being in the same ranks with companies such as Nokia who are pursuing them.

It is also worth noting that there is an ongoing case against Apple from Elan tech regarding multi touch. Elan has won a case against Synaptics on the same matter before.

RattyUK

Omg! Are you actually saying that gizmodo and engadget are now a font of all things legal on the internet? Hmmmm. On the other points not entirely certain that chrome os will give access to the low level stuff that the iPhone os gives programmers acess to.

cobalt

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.

Thomas

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.

Krishna Botnet

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.

Thomas

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.

RichardL

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.

dan

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

Daniel Cawrey

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:

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2010/02/22/first-look-apples-massive-idatacenter/

dare

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

James

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

CTSLICK

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.

Jim

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

Ternie

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”.

CTSLICK

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

BRYAN B

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.

Peter

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

HERESY! Burn him! :^D

GoodThings2Life

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…

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