They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. So does corporate America. Once mortal enemies, Apple and Microsoft have teamed up to attack Google where it hurts. Patents. Never say never, but it looks more and more like Google and Apple will never again be friends or partners.
A few years ago Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony got together and bought $4.5-billion worth of important technology patents, blocking a bid by Google for the same package. Patent insiders say now defunct Nortel’s patents are more like a nuclear stockpile– 6,000 patents that range from 4G wireless innovations to search engine processes.
Guess what? Google has just been served, and the starting point in the lawsuits is the search engine giant’s bread and butter. Search.
When Google lost the bid for Nortel’s patents, the company complained that it was part of an organized campaign against Android. Well, duh. Google gives away Android for free, while both Microsoft and Apple want to make money the old fashioned way– by selling their respective mobile products.
To protect itself from Apple and Microsoft, and to defend the growing Android turf, Google then went out and spend $12.5-billion on Motorola, also rich in technology patents. The problem with that purchase is that Motorola continues to bleed money, and the so-called treasure trove of patents haven’t done much for Google’s defense.
Apple and Microsoft have a vested interest in attacking Google. Google attacked their business models first. Google’s attack resulted in Android’s domination of the new smartphone market, to the exclusion of Apple and Microsoft. In addition, it resulted in BlackBerry’s near demise, and Nokia’s near demise (bought by Microsoft). What goes around comes around and Google, Samsung, LG, Huawei, HTC, ZTE, Pantech, and Asustek have just been served by the Apple and Microsoft patent alliance.
No one knows for sure exactly how this war will pan out. Patiens skirmishes are the 21st century equivalent of Europe’s 30 Years War from a few hundred years ago. One thing is certain. Google executives are unlikely to receive dinner invitations from executives at Apple or Microsoft anytime soon. Business is war. An attack on a company on one front almost guarantees an attack on the attacker. Google attacked first. Now Google is being attacked.
The friendship and partner days? They’re over.