pple won a major battle in its "thermonuclear war" against Google's Android last week when a nine-member jury said Samsung, the Korean handset manufacturer behind best-selling smartphones like the Galaxy S series, deliberately infringed on six Apple patents, such as pinch-to-zoom features and "bounce-back" scrolling. (Google licenses a basic stock version of the operating system Android to phone-making partners, including Samsung.) Now, Apple is seeking injunctions that would prohibit the sale of eight offending Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S II. While Samsung is expected to appeal, the ruling (which included $1 billion in damages) will surely turn the smartphone industry on its head in the coming months, forcing the Galaxy phone maker to either pay hefty licensing fees or redesign its products to further separate them from Apple devices. Can Android persevere?
Android is in big, big trouble: Maybe Samsung didn't intentionally blatantly copy Apple, says James Kendrick at ZDNet, but remember: Androids "didn't start selling in significant numbers until they adopted a design similar to the iPhone." For better or worse, "for a smartphone to sell in the millions, it must be similar in form and function to the iPhone." That's what consumers want. And Samsung can no longer make phones like that.
"Must smartphones be similar to iPhone to sell?"
But Android isn't dead yet: This hurts, but it isn't a "game-changing loss" for Android, analyst Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. tells Forbes. The smartphone market is global. Product cycles are fast. Innovation happens rapidly. There are lots of factors at play here, and that means "it is very unlikely that Apple... or any third parties could strike a mortal blow to Android through litigation" alone.
"Apple analysts call verdict an important victory in 'thermonuclear war' with Google Android"
Actually, Google has little to worry about: Google's hardware partners in the smartphone market are quietly panicking, says Sarah Mitroff at Wired. But Google itself maintains that Samsung's violations aren't included in Android's base code, and has gone to "great lengths" to keep its operating system distinct from iOS "with widgets, rotary and pull-tab lock screens, and an applications menu separate from the home screen." Maybe Apple will come after Android more directly in the future. But for now, Android appears to be safe.
"Should Google be running scared from Apple?"
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