It’s quite possible that main competitors Google and Apple will cause smartphone development to be tied up, at least in starts and fits. Both have entered the patent war with Apple winning the latest battle by getting rights over the “capacitive multi-touch interface” – opening up, possibly, more suits and stinging delays.
Recent articles have given Google the edge of the smartphone wars in a certain way. An edifying view has come from Forbes writer Timothy Lee. His sketch draws a relationship of Apple to Google that was similar to Apple and Microsoft during the early years of the desktop revolution. Apple had prioritized its operating system and its components, software and hardware, whereas Microsoft had merely licensed Windows to quickly move — albeit more quickly than others — into different areas of software development.
And so it is with Google. Google develops and opens up part of the Android, the smartphone operating system. The company licenses the use of Android to platform builders and manufacturers, allowing them to create different flavors of Android while freeing developers across the world to make different software and apps, to boot.
This is what Microsoft did with Windows. While Apple with the Mac maintained a niche market, Windows became an every-person’s operating system. Lee places Apple’s iPhone at the lower end of the funnel, while Google’s Android counts bucks on the wide end, essentially leaving software development to others.
Yet the iPhone maintains the most apt and most desirable user interface, and it is undeniable that Apple makes lots of money at that luxury end. PC Mag observer Kit Eaton notes the iPhone will probably take over Australia, but he wisely acknowledges that 70 percent of the world’s smartphone market, while not yet significantly developed, will be up for grabs.
For Google, it began last year. By fourth quarter, the Android had removed Nokia’s Symbian operating system from first place in the smartphone market. First quarter, this year, Google went on to overtake Research In Motion BlackBerry, coupling first place with 34.7 percent of the market. Research In Motion took second place with 27.1 percent. Apple had third place with 25.5 percent, followed by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Palm. The Android platform allowed Samsung to hold on to 25 percent of the market as handset maker.
The world has yet shown its penchant for the high-end smartphone. It stands to be seen that Apple’s supposed de-fanged to mid-range “Lite” model of the iPhone will really make any sense of brand noise or promise outside its niche.
In June, Oracle sued Google over the use of Java in smartphones. In July, Google, preparing for battle, buys over a thousand relevant patents from IBM. Research In Motion lays off 2,000. Android adds 500,000 customers a day. It is possible to see Google going back to court; Apple going back to court; haranguing as these two are prone to do over time-consuming, billion-dollar-dropping ploys of patent warfare while Europe, China, India and Africa become customized by… Androids?