With its eagerly awaited iPhone 5 slated for release in September and its ongoing patent legal fight with Samsung nearing the home stretch, Apple already has a lot on its plate. So it needs a new patent lawsuit from Google's Motorola Mobility unit like a hole in the head, according to IT analysts.
But a lawsuit is just what Apple received recently from Motorola Mobility, filed through the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and claiming Apple has violated patents related to email notifications, video players and location reminders as well as patents related to Apple's Siri voice-recognition program. The patent claims, which are in Motorola's second lawsuit against Apple recently, involve designs in Apple iPads, iPhones and various Mac computers including the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
The new lawsuit is an apparent extension of what has been playing out as an escalating market war between Apple and Google over the last six months. Apple previously announced that it's removing Google's YouTube and Google Maps apps from its devices. Meanwhile, Google has been bringing out Siri-like voice activation services for its Android mobile operating system, which is gaining developers and market share and becoming a keen competitor against Apple and iOS. Google is even bringing out aversion of its voice services for iPhones and iPads to take on Apple in its own backyard.
The new Motorola lawsuit against Apple is an expected part of what is a bigger battle for a broad market of mobile users, from consumers to the enterprise.
"By Google taking the offensive, they can bring it up on their terms and make a first strike," said Dan Maycock of Slalom Consulting. "They're posturing themselves, rather than waiting for Apple to be done with the Samsung patent proceedings and then firing something off at Google. Right now, Apple is consumed with the Samsung case."
What's really big here, said Maycock, is that Google/Motorola is blasting Apple right now, just a short time before the long-awaited launch of the iPhone 5. "That's no coincidence," said Maycock, because Google/Motorola can seek an injunction to try to block the launch and harm Apple in the marketplace as part of its patent claims.
"The iPhone 5 is said to be a game-changer for Apple, and [any kind of market disruption] would be a huge hit for Apple," said Maycock. "The iPhone 5 is going to set up Apple for the next several years, with new adapters, new systems and more changes. It will have a significant impact."
The lawsuit against Apple comes just a week after Google announced it is laying off 4,000 workers in the Motorola Mobility unit, or about 20 percent of its 20,000-member workforce, just three months after acquiring the company for $12.5 billion in May.
"I think it's all very precise timing," said Maycock. "It makes sense that they would sue Apple right out of the gate, coinciding with the purchase of Motorola and the recent consolidation there."
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, said the lawsuit is proof that Google had more in mind than handsets when it purchased the flagging Motorola unit. "Frankly one company doesn't go after another one when the other one has been losing money hand over fist for four-plus years unless there is some kind of underlying value there," said King. "The value there was in the patent portfolio" held by Motorola.