Could the multitude of reviews comparing the Google Android-based Nexus One smartphone have prompted Apple to sue HTC for infringing 20 patents related to its popular iPhone smartphone?
That's the first thing I thought when Apple announced its suit, which covers patents related to "iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture and hardware." Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't mince words in the press release:
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
With that as the backdrop, consider that when Google launched the Nexus One Jan. 5, almost every blogger or high-tech reviewer talked about how much the device was like the iPhone. Seriously, look at just a handful of reviews here.
Om Malik's comment tells it all:
"From a purely design standpoint, the Nexus One is within striking distance of its primary rival, the iPhone. Just as Infiniti and Lexus are almost as good as Mercedes, based on sheer looks, the Nexus One is a lot closer to the iPhone than all other Android phones. While it isn't as iconic as the Apple device, it is a well-designed, feature-rich product that stands apart in a sea of Android handsets."
Those tending toward hyperbole dubbed the device as a potential "iPhone Killer."
That alone is grounds enough to make Jobs want to sue somebody. Anybody.
HTC, which has made the inaugural G1 Android phone, the myTouch 3G, HTC Droid Eris and of course the Nexus One among other Android devices, is the direct target.
Apple's indirect target with the suit is Google's Android platform. Though not mentioned in the suit it has been gaining market share and poses the greatest threat to Apple's slice of the mobile Web pie.
It will be interesting to see how the International Trade Commission sides in the matter.
I don't read Apple's latest suit as indicative of a personal grudge because it's not limited to HTC, which is also engaged in a contentious patent lawsuit with Nokia.
Apple doesn't want any company to create a smartphone that remotely resembles or runs like the iPhone.
Apple also has to protect its 150,000-plus strong iPhone apps' ecosystem so it's becoming lawsuit happy in the mobile space.
Nothing personal, just territorial jousting for smartphone supremacy. Apple and Google are certainly complicit in a competitive dance and it will be exciting to watch in 2010 as each company moves to thwart the other.