Apple has a lot of cash in the bank, and now we know that former CEO Steve Jobs had at least one grand plan for what to do with it: Destroy Android. In his upcoming biography, titled Steve Jobs, to be released on Monday, biographer Walter Isaacson shows that Jobs was apoplectic over Android’s strong resemblance to iOS and was willing to go to great lengths to remedy what he called “grand theft.”
Here’s what Jobs told his biographer, according to an early copy obtained by the Associated Press:
Isaacson wrote that Jobs was livid in January 2010 when HTC introduced an Android phone that boasted many of the popular features of the iPhone. Apple sued, and Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft.”
“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, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
The excerpts we’ve seen of the biography so far are fascinating for many reasons but especially because they break through the carefully phrased statements Apple tends to use whenever making public pronouncements. Compare Jobs’ candor above with an example from this week’s earnings call. Regarding the ongoing mobile patent disputes, CEO Tim Cook put it this way: “We spend a lot of time and money and resource coming up with incredible innovation, and we don’t like it when someone else takes those. And unfortunately that’s why we’ve been pushed in to the court system to remedy that.”
That’s a bit milder than Jobs’ proposed scorched-earth tactics. It is interesting, though, that Apple never sued Google directly and instead has chosen to target other handset makers that use Android, apparently to chip away at Google’s influence in mobile from the outside.
Looking back, the signs of Jobs’ intent to destroy have been there. Apple has not backed down or granted broad licenses to any of the companies it has sued recently over its mobile patents. Patents blogger Florian Mueller at FOSS Patents reminded us on Friday that earlier this week Apple made it clear in its ongoing and acrimonious court battle with Samsung over the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia that there would be no broad licensing deal offered to settle the dispute once and for all.
In court documents Apple said it could potentially license Samsung “some lower level patents,” but Samsung would still have to “cease copying the features and functionality of Apple Inc’s products, and the iPad in particular.” In other words, Apple’s not giving in to make a couple of bucks, the way Microsoft did, and there will be no tacit approval of the patent infringement in exchange for licensing any of the higher-level patents Apple holds.
And this is Samsung we’re talking about, one of Apple’s most important suppliers for the iPhone and iPad, its two most important products. That’s a pretty good indication of what’s in store for the targets of Apple’s other mobile patent lawsuits, which include HTC, Motorola and others.
As Jobs reportedly told Eric Schmidt at the time: “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.”