Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Blog

Android Has a Target on Its Back

While final decisions on the Apple vs. Samsung Lawsuit are not expected until a ruling scheduled for December 6, there are some clear implications for both the software and hardware market.

Despite the recent verdict from the lawsuit that Samsung's hardware infringed on Apple's intellectual property, VDC Research does not believe that Samsung is the primary target of Apple. It's Google. A once happy relationship has bee on the rocks and now is broken. Apple's zeal to squash Android is driven by Apple's increasingly direct competitive positioning with Google. If Apple went after Samsung's hardware devices to get to the Android operating system, what are the implications for the Android licensee market?

If Android software is essentially the Google operating platform, although not as tightly controlled as the Apple iOS platform, as a result of the lawsuit verdict, Apple has raised the competitive stakes for the Android ecosystem of hand-held devices and tablets. For one of the largest e-commerce retailers, Amazon, the stakes could be even higher. Right now, Amazon has built its Kindle e-reader on the Android platform, albeit a platform that is significantly modified. Given the legal verdict, licensees of the Android OS that are not closely aligned with the core Android OS are exposing themselves to scrutiny from Apple. Apple has sent a strong message that it will pursue companies they believe violate their patented technologies. Hence, the parameters for development and design for all licensees of Android need to clearly differentiate themselves from the existing market and not rely on "me-too" devices, or Apple will certainly strike. For Amazon, it's a clear directive that any path off the core Android OS needs to ensure it doesn't expose them to patent infringement.

Given Android's target appeal, the bird's eye view of Microsoft's competitive position may have improved as the Windows 8 platform uses a more differentiated UI, Metro, and Microsoft's licensing of patents from Apple may keep it out of Apple's crosshairs. While Microsoft may gain some incremental market share, for Microsoft to really capitalize on the situation will be dependent on whether companies using Android will feel the need to diversify.

The new reality for the Android ecosystem requires design and development that stays far enough away from Apple. The "me-too" market for product development has been curtailed, which means that competitors will need true innovation to be competitive and that is a win for customers. The hurdle is certainly not too high for companies like Amazon as a competitive company should be able to bring out a product that doesn't infringe on Apple's IP. It just means Tom sitting in his garage might not be able to do it. 

Of course, in the short-term Apple has made it more difficult for Android to get to market by limiting one of the key channels for Android, the device market. Anybody that uses Android has a target on their back. Apple is trying to kill Google. 

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