Steve Jobs: Microsoft’s Unforeseen Lawyer Against Android

Steve Jobs felt betrayed and cheated when Google announced Android. His now-released biography makes it abundantly clear that his anger was intense. The words in his biography against Android and strong . Steve’s words on Android, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this,” have wide reactions. Some question the fact that Jobs “stole” ideas too. There is however one small problem I have with those who raise the question. Jobs wasn’t on the board of directors of a company he “stole” from.

I read somewhere that one issue with Android is not that it is copied but Google did not bother to put in any effort to make the copied product better. Android is simply a cheap imitation of the iOS, in sharp contrast to Windows Phone. Microsoft’s platform lacks some features iOS does but the OS is elegant and fresh in its own way. There are features that Apple felt were good and introduced in iOS5. But Microsoft was late, and unfortunately they can’t seem to figure out how to market their phone. Coming back to Android, while Google keeps saying the OS is free, Microsoft has said it is not.

For quite some time Microsoft has been getting into patent licensing deals with OEMs that use Android. Many pundits are furious. The anger is misplaced. Their annoyance against the patent system has a lot to do with the kind of patents granted (frivolous in many cases) and patent trolls like Lodsys. Microsoft’s not the problem. Microsoft on their part has huge investments in R&D. For a company that has spent billions in research and intellectual property, it would be naive to say has no right in retrieving their investments when someone claims their product to be free while it infringes on IP Microsoft owns.

Steve Jobs’s harsh criticism of Android in several ways is testament to the fact that Google doesn’t care about IP. That doesn’t mean they have bad developers or Android is crass. It simply means that someone somewhere decided to ignore basics. Unlike Lodsys that’s behaving in what is nothing less than ludicrous by going after developers, Microsoft is doing what any responsible corporate entity would do—sit across the table and solve the issue in a way that’s mutually beneficial. Microsoft gets a cut out of the OEMs for their IP & the OEMs get to use Android with Microsoft’s IP to back them.

When Steve Jobs says Android is a stolen product, it makes a strong case against Android, given his death and the belief people have in his words. Even though Android is popular, Jobs’s words are a PR disaster for Google, one that is compounded by OEMs signing IP deals with Microsoft. Google’s lawyers making statements that patents stifle innovation or arm-twist development does not help Google when one of the biggest tech visionary says your product is stolen.