Apple has sued Google's phone manufacturer for infringing on 20 iPhone patents. Not so long ago, Apple and Google were a nice couple. Then, everything went to hell.
The romance began with the iPhone, even while we didn't know about it in 2006. Back then, Steve Jobs invited Google's CEO Eric Schmidt to his house, to sit at his table, and have vanilla-frosted cupcakes and tea together. It was instant love.
They happily worked in the iPhone's 2007 launch. Google gave Apple their maps, their search, and their mail, and Apple gave Google the best spot in their new shiny device. Apple put YouTube into the iPhone and Google made YouTube to work nicely with QuickTime, moving all videos to the h.264 standard (so Apple could avoid that nasty Flash kid). Google even optimized their web apps for the iPhone, and Apple smiled.
And so they played in the new smartphone playground together and giggled at Yahoo and Microsoft and Adobe and everyone else. They were the coolest kids, they told everyone how happy they were, and everyone thought they were the perfect lovers.
The iPhone quickly became a huge success, positioning itself as the future of ubiquitous consumer-oriented computing. Just the kind that Google wants to control to deliver its highly targeted ads. Google noticed the success, and the relationship started to rupture. I can imagine the meeting between Eric, Sergey and Larry: "Whaaaa...? How did they...? Fuck, we need to get into this now." It was then that Google started to reveal its true face — and their plans for the little company they bought in 2005, helmed by the phone wiz Andy Rubin. They realized that they couldn't let Apple control the main window to the web. After all, it was their web, not Apple's.
Google presented Android, their own smartphone operating system made to imitate Apple's. Not only did they devote resources to create this, but they wanted to give it for free to every manufacturer and carrier. It didn't take much for Steve Jobs to realize that the romance was over. It was betrayal. Google was his new Microsoft. The real nemesis that could build a new dominant "Windows", and turn his early success with the iPhone into the new Mac underdog.
That was when all went to hell.
It wasn't an open war. At the beginning, it all happened behind curtains, like when Apple allegedly stopped multitouch on Android and Google complied, realizing that they might otherwise be stepping into a patent minefield. Like the one the just got into now, with HTC as the proxy.
Steve Jobs couldn't tie his tongue, however. Back in January 2008, he was already criticizing Google and Android, pointing out that it wasn't going to be good for anyone. It was the first knife shining in the open, but it wasn't the last one.
After that, executives at Apple have been pretty clear about what they think about Google, like when Tim Cook said that Google was still trying to catch up with the first iPhone or Jobs gave his blunt-as-bricks opinion on Google's "Don't Be Evil" mantra. "It's bullshit," he said, a sentiment now shared by many.
It almost feels like this is something personal for Steve Jobs, as if he believed that a fake-smiled Eric Schmidt sat at the Apple's board, eating his food and drinking his wine, while plotting to kidnap Apple's baby since the very beginning. It seems the feeling is mutual: Schmidt delivered his own snide against Jobs and his new baby recently, pooping on the iPad as nothing more than a big phone.
Knowing how things developed, it's surprising that Schmidt stayed on Apple's board for so long. He resigned on August 2009, just as the war started to go open, first with Google grabbing mobile advertising company AdMob from Apple's hands (which forced Apple to buy Quattro Wireless). Then with Apple pissing on Google's parade by stealing Lala, the music streaming service that Larry and Sergei wanted to have.
The love affair was definitely over, and the bitter separation started. Like gangrene, the hate started to spread to every aspect in the relations between the two companies. According to insiders, negotiating the terms for maps in the new iPhone OS and the iPad was a fierce battle, to the point in which Apple went and bought their own charting company at one point. Who knows if that move was part of their poker hand—like the rumors about Apple replacing Google search with Bing—or an actual desire to get fully independent from Google.
The true war, however, has started today, with the lawsuit against HTC. It names their Windows phones, but that's just a distracting maneuver. The core example in the lawsuit is Android, and that's where the real attack is. And by going against HTC, the weakest link in the chain, Apple is not only attacking Google. It's also giving a warning to every manufacturer out there: If you try to pull a Nexus Two for them, we will launch our missiles against you. Motorola—who confirmed they are working with Google—could be the next one in the list.
Jobs clearly knows that they are playing for the domination of the future of computing, the Next Big Thing. And he doesn't want this one to end like the Macintosh-Windows War. This time he has a huge lead, and he has the deep pockets to fight for it, whether that means new product development, strategic acquisitions or all-out legal battles. In the most recent Apple shareholder meeting, he clearly said this: They will use their huge mountain of cash to do everything necessary, every "bold move" needed to keep their lead, and have the whole enchilada for themselves.
There's no doubt that Jobs will use every single of Apple's 40 billion dollars to trump Google's plans, and keep their massive market share in the mobile device and applications world. But for that he will need a strong cloud structure and to get deep into the social aspect of the web. Of the latter, they got nothing. On the former, MobileMe is still a half-baked solution, and iWork.com beta has failed to gain any real traction. Maybe Apple's traditional enemy—Microsoft—would be able to help there. And maybe getting together with Facebook would slap Google where it hurts more.
Click to viewOn the other side, Google has the lead in the cloud, except for their failed social efforts, which are the target of jokes and extreme criticism. At the same time, while technically good, Android has failed to match the momentum of the iPhone. Android's app marketplace is still tiny compared to the App Store—and low quality too, by comparison. Apple has an easier time wooing app developers at this point, and that is a big advantage.
Overall, it seems like the two ex-lovers are in a technical tie, and are getting dirtier and bloodier by the day. Sometimes, love ends up like this.