Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Patent War: No Matter What Happens, Android Will Prevail But Changes Inevitable

Today, HTC scored a minor victory for Android-dom as the ITC ruled against HTC.  What you said?  HTC lost to Apple and that's a victory?  Here's the thing. It was bad but not as bad a it could have been.  And HTC has already said that will have ample time to work around Apple's patent that it infringed on.

What this patent is doesn't matter.  See, HTC infringed on Apple's patent and, yet, it still has time to work around it.  About four months.  And here is the larger issue.  Patents will be lobbed by one company against another for years to come.

What today's ruling shows is that while Android may lose, it may still win in the sense that there will not be a wholesale ban on sales of Android devices.  And Apple may lose one patent ruling or another but no iOS device is likely to be barred from sale.  And this goes for other devices as well.

However, Google and its partners will look at today's ruling against HTC as change in the status quo and business as usual is no longer attainable.  Rulings are going to come in against Android and while today's case was a bump in the road, future rulings could cause more problems that require Google to take action to the core of the Android OS.

Oracle has a case pending against Android and, just over the weekend, we learned that British Telecom has brought a slew of patents against Android and other core Google services asking for triple damages should it prevail.

Should these bigger patent cases be ruled against Google and Android, workarounds may be more difficult.  It could take more time for engineers to try to innovate around these patent roadblocks.

For us end users, we probably will not see much of a difference in our how devices operate.  Android that we have come to appreciate will continue to work without major hiccups.  There could be minor changes that at best cause annoyances.  That could be what Apple want but to be honest, Android has always been quirky at times so we are not going to mind too much about it.

Still, it'll be interesting to see how the Android camp reacts.

There one possible worst case scenario in all this that we have to keep in mind.  There could be a day when Android could cost Google money.  And if it is so much that Google, having to answer to its shareholders, may have to make a decision and find a way to pass along that cost of operating the Android ecosystem.

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