Since yesterday, I have been biting my tongue a bit….trying my best to not comment on something that occurred yesterday. Unfortunately, it’s been nagging so much that I just can’t stop myself from writing this missive. I’ve been trying to hold off because it’s not 100% DIRECTLY related to enterprise mobility and how organizations should best be deploying mobile solutions in the workplace….but when it comes down to it, I feel as if the ramifications of what I am thinking about ARE in fact directly related to enterprise mobility. So today, I will ask you to kindly bear with me as I go on a complete stream of consciousness.
You may have heard yesterday that courts in both the United States and Canada have approved the sale of over 6,000 patents previously held by Nortel to a consortium of companies including Apple, EMC, Research in Motion, Microsoft, Sony and Ericsson (not SonyEricsson). There’s a fascinating article at TechCrunch that shares how the auction went down. It’s a great read that is very much worth your while.
Maybe I’m an alarmist….maybe I’m completely off my rocker (wouldn’t be the first time someone told me that)….but this deal could radically change the mobile operating system landscape where Android would be relegated to a 3rd or 4th position in terms of marketshare.
There…I said it. And no….I’m not taking any mind altering substances (other than my normal voluminous amount of morning coffee).
Let’s take a quick step back. There are already a number of lawsuits going on in mobile patent world.
- Apple is suing Samsung.
- Apple is now filing a patent complaint against HTC.
- Apple is said to be considering no longer buying parts from Samsung.
- Microsoft is suing Motorola.
- Microsoft has a licensing deal with HTC for their Android devices.
- Microsoft has also signed recently a number of deals with other Android OEMs/ODMs.
- Microsoft is said to be looking for $15 from Samsung for every Android device they sell.
- Oh ya….and there’s Oracle suing Google over Android. By the way, when was the last time Oracle lost a major lawsuit? Think about it. Larry Ellison is as smart as he is arrogant….and don’t forget who his BFF is. That’s right. Steve Jobs.
The net net? Everyone is after Android.
Now….let’s add the 6,000+ patents “The Group Of Six” just acquired. Where does that leave Google? In a most unenviable position from an IP standpoint. Add to this the fact that, given the open source licensing that Google has put in place, it will not indemnify any vendor who chooses to use the Android platform.
So what’s to say that “The Group of Six” choose to play a little game known as “My enemy’s enemy is my friend?”
They all gang up on the Android partners – offer egregiously and uncompromisingly unfriendly licensing terms – and create enough headaches that the major OEMs and ODMs throw their hands up in the air and say that it’s just not worth to go with Android.
- Apple still remains #1 in North America and with a strong position in other parts of the world.
- The OEMs/ODMs will have to do one of two things. Either they will recommit themselves to the Windows Phone platform, or if you believe HP, license webOS. I find the latter doubtful. So, Windows Phone becomes a legitimate #2.
- What about our dear friends in Waterloo? Well, for now, there are no signs of them licensing the BlackBerry OS to anyone else, so by shear numbers, they would probably be #3.
Where does that leave Google? Fighting to be in the #3 position against BlackBerry. But let’s not forget, RIM is in on that game of the 6,000+ patents. They know how to play the legal battles and could very well also do a squeeze play on the remaining OEMs/ODMs who want to play in the Android space.
Now mind you – I am by NO means an expert in patent law. I don’t even know if this scenario would get review for anti-trust based upon collusionary practices. I also vehemently believe that the magic eight ball that tells us what the future holds for mobility has run out of batteries. What I do know is that this is a plausible scenario in the space time continuum….and while almost two and a half years ago I said that the legal system hinders innovation, it’s obvious to me that no one really cares about that right now.