Google Playing Catch Up in Patent Defenses
Kevin Benedict, an analyst with Netcentric Strategies, said the latest battle between the two companies, which had been close allies and partners over the last six or seven years, is to be expected nowadays because the mobile market is getting larger and becoming even more competitive. "You're seeing Apple removing itself from Google in every way possible and Google/Motorola taking them on in hardware, too," said Benedict. "Both of these companies recognize the extreme growth in mobile commerce, mobile marketing and mobile payments" and each wants to keep their part of the pie. "Everything is moving into the mobile space. The market has moved. That's the mega-trend that we all need to know."In the new version of Apple's device operating system, Mountain Lion, Apple has removed the search bar of the past, he said. Now users will just type searches into the URL bar and they'll be handled by Apple's own processes, rather than through Google, taking away a large market for Google. Carl Howe, an analyst with Yankee Group, said that the Mountain Lion change is actually ironic. Removing the search bar in favor of typing queries directly into the URL bar, "was the first thing that Google did with its Chrome browser," said Howe. "It certainly makes Google less visible in Safari." What the latest lawsuit really makes clear, he said, is that the battle lines have truly been drawn between the two companies. "Apple and Google are best friends forever no more," said Howe. "In 2007, Apple needed Google for the iPhone because they needed a lot of the services from Google. Now, it's 2012, and they don't need them as much." Though the latest legal salvo has been fired, Howe said he thinks it will be a challenge for Motorola to win before the ITC. "Motorola was found innocent in March of infringing on Apple's patents, so that does not mean they are going to win a lawsuit going the other way," said Howe. "The ITC does tend to be even-handed." Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group, said the suit against Apple shows just how much Google's strategy is changing. "Motorola was purchased primarily to be used in this way," wrote Enderle in an email reply. "Google really didn't believe in patents early on and they are paying the price now. Often the issue with kids coming into the market believing in Linux and open source, the belief can cause them to believe the market works this way and it doesn't." What Google is now trying to do, he said, is to catch up in an area where they haven't been very active. "Google still has an inadequate patent defense, which is what is putting their licensees at risk (because Microsoft and Apple are going after the licensees not Google for the most part). They are trying now to correct this problem but started late and that will make the effort very expensive." Ultimately, that will mean "lots of litigation and appeals over a very long time" in this case, said Enderle. "Apple feels Google used its unique position (Jobs was mentoring the founders, Google's old CEO was on Apple's board) to steal from the company," wrote Enderle. "That makes this personal and personal means expensive."
And for Google, that will have a huge impact, said Benedict. "That means that everybody will be doing all their searches on mobile devices, so they realize that they can't let Apple control all of that. Google is thinking that if they allow that then they can be excluded from that market."