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Summary:

We now know when new Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is going to have his first “What would Steve do?” moment. Early accounts of a greatly a…

Tim Cook, Apple CEO
photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

We now know when new Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is going to have his first “What would Steve do?” moment. Early accounts of a greatly anticipated biography of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs reveal just how emotionally he reacted to the development of Google’s Android operating system, and just how determined he was to get revenge through the patent system. Do Cook’s passions for patent litigation run as deep?

Apple and Google’s complicated relationship over the last decade is pretty common knowledge in Silicon Valley. They were once close partners brought together by a mutual disdain for Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), with Google’s Eric Schmidt serving on Apple’s board of directors and prominent Google (NSDQ: GOOG) products like YouTube and Google Maps playing a prominent role on the first iPhone. But after Google plunged headlong into the smartphone market with Android, and especially after Android engineers pursued a design that resembled the iPhone more than the BlackBerry, Jobs could no longer stomach the search company he once so admired.

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion [at the time] in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said in Walter Isaacson’s biography, which will be released Monday, two and a half weeks after Jobs died. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

Jobs said those words the same week in 2010 Apple plunged headlong into mobile patent litigation, suing HTC for infringing on the iPhone with its Android-based smartphones. Other suits have followed against companies such as Samsung and Motorola (NYSE: MMI), and the mobile world has found itself in a patent-related legal quagmire.

Most patent litigation ends in a settlement: high-profile legal warfare is mighty expensive for both sides, and most defendants are willing to pay even more to avoid the prospect of an injunction should their product be found in violation of the plaintiff’s patents. Yet it now seems pretty clear that under Jobs, Apple wasn’t going to settle for less than total capitulation from Android vendors and maybe even Google itself.

But a different man runs Apple now. Much less is known about Tim Cook as compared to the legend of American business that he succeeds, but a 2008 Fortune profile of Cook included an anecdote about his leadership style that concluded: “The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.” Later, Cook is described as “temperamentally different [than] Jobs. Cook is cool, calm, and never, ever raises his voice.”

The other reason so many patent lawsuits end in a settlement is because they can grind on for years of countersuits, appeals, and endless hearings to quibble over small details. It’s true that at the moment, Apple seems to have the upper hand in its legal efforts.

Android companies know they hold weak patent positions, signing deals left and right with Microsoft over their exposure to that company’s patents. Apple and Microsoft successfully teamed up to control the rights to Nortel’s 6,000 mobile patents, denying their protection to Google in the same breath. And Apple is forcing Samsung into an increasingly difficult position when it comes to the tablet market.

Yet “destroying” Android could be a multiyear legal odyssey that is by no means certain. If Google manages to purchase Motorola and its arsenal of mobile patents (which aren’t necessarily an ironclad defense themselves, but that’s an entirely separate story), Apple could be eventually forced to confront Google and its formidable resources directly rather than suing its partners. The outcome of Oracle’s lawsuit against Google might provide some insight into how direct conflict between Apple and Google might evolve, but that case has been postponed until 2012.

The next time Cook evaluates Apple’s legal strategy, how will he balance emotion and logic? Android may be the world’s leading mobile operating system, but most mobile critics would agree it lacks Apple’s polish. And even if you agree that Android ripped off iOS, it’s clear that the original is a far more profitable venture.

So while Google might be winning the market share battle, it’s harder to argue it is winning the overall mobile war. Mobile developers consistently rank iOS ahead of Android when it comes to development priorities, and Apple’s brand and profits have never been stronger. And Apple’s shrewd component supply deals (orchestrated by Cook) actually have it in a position where it can offer a premium product with better margins at the same cost as Android rivals.

In other words, is Android really hurting Apple where it counts? Google’s basic goal when entering the smartphone market was to ensure that Apple’s tight-fisted control over what could run on the iPhone would not be the only paradigm in the new mobile era, in the hopes that an operating system open to different partners would ensure Google could still fight for mobile searches. It has achieved that goal, but it hasn’t made a dent in Apple’s mobile cash cow.

Given that Apple continues to succeed in mobile, at a certain point someone not as emotionally tied to the destruction of Android may wonder why Apple continues to pay legal fees just to mess with Google (NSDQ: GOOG). That, of course, doesn’t mean that Apple would let Google and Android partners off the hook: if they are determined to have infringed on Apple’s products, they should have to pay, and those payments could be extraordinary.

But nor does it mean that Cook is beholden to pursue an emotional scorched-earth campaign against something that isn’t really making a dent in his bottom line. For now, just weeks after Jobs’ death, it’s hard to imagine Cook deviating from the path laid out by someone he clearly considered both a mentor and a friend. During Apple’s earnings call last Tuesday, he declined to comment specifically on Apple’s legal strategy but did say that “we spend a lot of time and money and resources in coming up with incredible innovations, and we don’t like it when someone else takes those.”

One of the most compelling storylines–perhaps ever–in the technology industry will be the performance of Apple following the death of an irreplaceable genius who may have left behind a road map but did not leave behind his indomitable will.

Will Cook be as determined as Jobs to wipe Android from the face of the earth? A mobile industry shell-shocked by the patent disputes of 2011 is anxiously awaiting any sign of his intentions.

  1. Well it seems to me that anything that might resemble anything apple, apple wants to destroy it. they must be very scared of the competition,afraid that people will find out apple isn’t as good as apple thinks they are.

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    1. Apple is the biggest tech company in the world and on a good day the biggest company in the world period. I don’t think they got there by selling snake oil or pulling the wool over everyones’ eyes. What do you think?

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      1. I think that’s exactly how they got there.  Don’t you?  They offer a comparable range (diminished, even!) or products and services than their peers in the field, yet rake in much more revenue.  I smell something, some kind of oil…?

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        1. jesuschristcross Saturday, October 22, 2011

          olive oil? yea. me too. it’s from the ice cream sandwich. with bacon.

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      2. apple is also the most sued tech company in modern history & has been found guilty on many occasions of stealing others ideas, patents ( most recently nearly a billion dollars to nokia) & even the name apple. when apple computers was sued by apple records & found guilty they were fined & ordered never to enter the music business in any way. so much for apple complying with court orders

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        1. jesuschristcross Saturday, October 22, 2011

           that’s why nokia now is microsoft’s bitch.

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        2. Dude, ease up on the holier-than-thou attitude and the extra helping of hypocrisy. First, you can’t have it both ways. If you think it’s OK for others to sue Apple in order to enforce their patent rights, then you can’t say that Apple is not entitled to do the same. Well, you CAN say that if you’re a hypocrite, which you are.

          Second, patent litigation is part and parcel of being a large company. You call out Apple as being somehow more despicable than others but there’s no proof of that at all. Litigation is sometimes required in order to resolve disputes. Suggesting that it is immoral either to sue or be sued shows a complete misunderstanding of the legal system. Moreover, it shows a complete lack of impartiality. No one who reads your remarks would conclude that your hate litigation – only that you hate Apple. 

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      3. Not the biggest, just the most valued.

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    2. jesuschristcross Saturday, October 22, 2011

       right. jobs was very afraid. shaking.

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    3. Yes, I hear this argument all the time. Apple is scared of the competition. Yet in the post made just before yours, Holden Monaro argues that Apple is evil BECAUSE it is being sued by others. Are they all afraid of competition too? Which is it? Or is it neither.

      You say that Apple is afraid of the competition. But if Apple’s suits are meritless, then how will their litigation help them? And if Apple’s suits have merit, doesn’t that mean that it is the competition, not Apple, who is at fault?

      Look, it’s OK to contend that patent litigation is bad. It is NOT OK to contend that patent litigation is good when others initiate it and bad when Apple initiates it.

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  2. android is cr@p and apple has never been significant with around 10% of world market so tell me why I should care at all?

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  3. Steve Jobs was willing to destroy Apple to destroy Android. Classy.

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  4. to be honest, i dont care who is winning, so long as i can still have a choice of product that suits my needs. i admit i am drawn to the “wow cool” factor of android with amazing attention to the little details, the slick animations. buttery smooth operation & ability to organise my homepages with news or weather widgets, live content etc. i read mostly tech news sites & while i agree that most “tech experts” agree that IOS is a more polished, i just dont see it. sure iphones are smooth & fast, but they are just too simplistic for my work needs & taste. tiny screen i can hardly read, unable to place orders online at work with my purveyors with an iphone ( no flash). atrocious gps navigation system & operation. notification system that is designed to frustrate etc. i could go on about the simplistic uselessness of iphones but i would be here all day.

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  5. Google is working on a compiler that will covert Dalvik code (Android apps) into Dart. At the same time, Dart is becoming the next programming language for the web (both server and client side) and both Chrome browser and Chrome OS are about to support it. On top of that Android will soon replace their generic browser with Chrome, and make Dart as “the” engine to develop and run Android apps. Issue with Oracle solved, the line between Android and Chrome gets blurred, fragmentation disappears, everything is in the cloud, on the web, and everybody is happy except Microsoft and Apple which OSes’ are barely becoming hybrid while Android is already going to the next level.

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  6. Steve Jobs never stole another idea??

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    1. Please. Why do people say such baseless things. (Actually, I know why they say them. They hate Steve Jobs and attribute ill motives to all of his actions.)

      What did Steve Jobs “steal”? Did he steal the Apple I or II? Wozniak had no interest in marketing his project. Without Jobs, it would have died stillborn. Did he steal the mouse? He was permitted to view the Xerox technology which was going nowhere until Apple mainstreamed it. Did he steal Pixar? Did he steal NeXT which he then used to revive Apple? Did he steal the iPod? Or did he use the click-wheel to reinvent the MP3 player? Did he steal iTunes? No, he bought it and improved it and integrated it with the iPod. Did he steal the ideas that have turned Apple retail into the most successful retail operation of all time? Did he steal the iPhone? Please. There was nothing like the iPhone before it was introduced and every smart phone since emulates it. Did he steal the App store? It’s the greatest generator of computing ideas since the beginning of the personal computing revolution. Did he steal the iPad? No one could make the tablet commercially viable before the iPad and no one can seem to make a commercially viable tablet that can compete with the iPad today. Did he steal Siri? No, he purchased it and integrated it into Apple’s mobile operating system.

      Steve Jobs once famously said that good artists copy, great artists steal. Haters have purposely misconstrued that quote to prove that Jobs was a thief. Their contention doesn’t survive even an ounce of scrutiny. Do you think that Picasso (who was attributed with the quote) stole off with other people’s paintings? Of course not. It’s a metaphor. Taking the saying literally is literally stupid. What that quote means is that good artists try to do what others are doing while great artists make great ideas their own. They internalize them and use them to build their own great creations.

      Suggesting that Steve Jobs stole technological ideas is like suggesting that Abraham Lincoln stole from the speeches of Demosthenes, Socrates, Cicero, and Pericles. He incorporated all of their thoughts and ideas into his speeches, but he didn’t plagiarize them. From their greatness he created wholly new, wholly different, wholly wonderful speeches of his own. Steve Jobs did the same. To claim otherwise is not only petty, it’s not only small minded, but it’s very, very foolish.

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      1. By your logic, what did Android “steal?”  Did it steal the touchscreen?  No, they bought them from the same manufacturers as Apple.  Did it steal the desktop UI?  No, because while iOS gives you  a list of icons, the Android UI expands on that to allow blank space, widgets, and a separate app drawer where you can get a list of icons just like in iOS.  If anything, Android improved on it.  Did it steal the App Store?  No, app stores had existed for Symbian, Palm, and kind of for Windows Mobile before the iPhone.  

        By you’re interpretation, Google must be a great artist.  By looking at what was out there already and innovating on top of it, they created Android.  If Android was directly stolen from iOS, why are the only patents Apple can bring against it things like allowing you to click on a phone number in an email?  While a useful feature, that surely does not define the whole OS.  (Note how I am leaving out the Samsung legal battle because it obviously applies to the hardware imitating the iPad.  All other Android tablets are in the clear and are not being sued by Apple).  

        Copy your whole last paragraph and replace “Steve Jobs” with “Android,” and you will see how in this case, Steve was “not only petty, not only small minded, but very, very foolish.”

        Android is currently the only OS that can completely replace a standard computer.  When Apple chose to release their phone on only AT&T, not to have a file system, not to give users the ability to use programs such as flash, not to allow installation of programs from anywhere other than the App Store, they should have known that they were seceding part of the market to whoever could.  And since Microsoft was no where to be found in mobile these past few years, Android dominated.   Apple has no one but themselves to blame for the rise of Android.  And now, its too late for them to fix their mistakes.  (and things like not giving T-mobile the iPhone4S show that they still don’t understand this).

        If at some point in the future, Android is destroyed by jealous competitors like Apple and Microsoft, then it should be through competition and the choice of consumers, not through multi-billion dollar legal action.

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        1. “By your logic, what did Android “steal?”-vvlt067

          I read your post several times and I have to admit that I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t think you do either.

          First, I did not accuse Android of stealing anything. You made that up from whole cloth and read that into my remarks.

          Second, do you not understand that there is a difference between building on the ideas of others and breaching their patents? Patents are a time limited monopoly granted by the state. Whether Apple or Google or Android or whoever breaches those patents, they are responsible for the consequences.

          I would like to provide a better response but, honestly, I simply can’t follow what you are trying to say. 

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      2. That may have been a metaphor, but he followed it up with: “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW0DUg63lqU

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        1. Again, t_clock, what is your point? Picasso certainly didn’t run around stealing paintings and if he had followed up his famous quote by saying “I have always been shameless about stealing great ideas” do you think he would have copied the works of others into his paintings? On the contrary. Picasso never seemed to paint anything that was anything like the works of others. But in his famous quote, he was acknowledging that – no matter how dissimilar his works might be – he was still building on the ideas of others.

          The next time you wish to use that quote to criticize Steve Jobs, simply replace his name with that of Picasso. I think you’ll quickly realize how foolish your criticisms have been.

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  7. someinternetdude Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Jobs wanting to almost bet all of Apples money to kill Android goes to show how Jobs feared Android. And with Android at 57% of the market to iOSs 27% I don’t blame the guy.

    Android rules

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  8. This sound a bit heinous: “Apple and Microsoft successfully teamed up to control the rights to Nortel’s 6,000 mobile patents, denying their protection to Google in the same breath.” 

    Google was offered a role in that consortion, which also included RIM, Sony, Ericsson, EMC, but tried to bid on the patents alone, and lost.  Google bid $0.9billion.  The Consortion bid $4.5billion.  That was a mis-step by Google, not a ‘teaming up’ by anyone.

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  9. Schmidt should have removed himself from Apple’s board well before plans to create Android. Google was getting all the ad revenue at the time. It appears Google got greedy. Now Apple has added it’s own ad system. Timing is the issue. apple had a huge head start over everyone else in the business. Except, magically Google who’s CEO sat on Apple’s board. Coincidence?

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  10. I would say that “fear” has nothing to do with this.  Can you imagine spending a substantial part of your life developing ideas, only to have them used against you.  Especially when the person who is using those ideas once sat on your companies board.  Seems he has a pretty good reason to be pissed.  I guess it all comes down to morals.

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  11. “Google’s basic goal when entering the smartphone market was to ensure that Apple’s tight-fisted control over what could run on the iPhone would not be the only paradigm in the new mobile era”

    Actually, Google went into mobile in order to insure that MICROSOFT not dominate mobile the way it dominated the desktop. At the time, Google and Apple had a close relationship and Apple’s phones were no threat to Google’s search at all. In fact, Google recently stated in a congressional hearing that the majority of their mobile income still comes from Apple devices.

    I think this is one of the reason’s why Jobs may have been so bitter. Eric Schmidt helped orchestrate an attack on Apple’s core business while simultaneously serving on Apple’s board. It’s little wonder that Jobs felt betrayed.

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  12. I don’t think Apple is scared of Google or Android. It’s not about the money, it’s the principal of it. Apple made more money off the 4S in 3 days then Google makes off mobile in a year. 
    Apple is taking an interesting approach to it’s legal position on this.  Go after the device manufactures, Samsung, HTC and Moto then go after Google. They have no intention of a cross license or settlement, they just want the Android dead. If they are successful the damage model for Samsung, Moto, HTC and Google would make any other settlement in history look like chump change. Even if they can’t stop it the royalties and damages will likely be crazy. 

    Apple appears to have some fairly broad and strong patents for this market. Some of them appear to have no workarounds. Samsung has already had it’s products blocked in some countries even before the case goes to trial. That’s just about as bad as it can get for them. The Galaxy and touch wiz interface really look like IOS. It’s very clear that Samsung dropped the iPhone in the engineering lab and said “Make this”.  Apple has responded in a way that any company should. 

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  13. As this thread has sadly devolved. We are closing it up.

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