Google’s Eric Schmidt perfected an air of bemused condescension during his 10 years as CEO, rarely allowing the slings and arrows of lesser competitors or pesky questioners to knock him off stride. Even though he’s no longer CEO Schmidt hasn’t changed all that much, although his comments Tuesday about Google’s mobile patent position do little to hide the keen sense of urgency felt by the Android community.
Asked to comment about the patent pressure Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is feeling as Android partners are squeezed by both Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Schmidt likened the situation to “legal fun,” saying: “We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations,” as reported by ZDNet Asia. “I’m not too worried about this.”
Were it that simple. Because of Google’s failure to win the Nortel patent auction, it is actually now scrambling to secure patent cover for Android through whatever means necessary, which could include acquisitions, licenses, or some combination of both. It’s possible that Schmidt is privy to plans wherein Google simply cuts a check to ensure patent coverage, and therefore can say with a straight face that he isn’t quite worried, but the Android proxy war is no small matter.
HTC is staring at a possible injunction after losing a round against Apple, which may not threaten its Android lineup entirely but is certainly forcing the company to consider its options. Samsung is said to be considering a licensing deal with Microsoft over its patents that may lead to a warming of ties between Microsoft and Samsung, the largest Android partner. And smaller vendors are paying the Android patent tax, validating Microsoft’s multiyear strategy to convince the mobile industry that Android isn’t really free.
Schmidt insisted that HTC would prevail on appeal and seemed to suggest that Google was willing to help, saying “we will make sure they don’t lose, then.” While Schmidt may declare in public that Google isn’t sweating the mobile patent wars, it’s pretty clear from that last statement that Google is willing to do everything it can to keep Android partners under its wing.