(which runs Android) banned from release in
Germany and delayed its launch in Australia.
This is part of a global fight about design and
Android, complicated by the fact that Samsung
is Apple’s largest component supplier.
The Samsung suits were also the most significant sign that Google may have a problem
with the intellectual property underpinning Android, since its “free and open” operating system
is forcing its device makers into expensive courtroom battles over their Android phones and
tablets. This, in turn, has set off a buying frenzy
of global patents that might have anything to do
with transmitting mobile data. A coalition that
included Apple and Microsoft spent $4.5 billion
to outbid Google for a stash of 6,000 mobile-related patents from Nortel. Page responded by
spending $12.5 billion for Motorola and its slug
of 17,000 patents, and by then making two deals
with IBM for more than 2,000 patents in all (the
purchase price was not disclosed).
All these patent suits could stifle innovation.
Most new devices are so complicated—touching
on so many specialized areas, from intricate
chip design to battery placement to touch-screen
dynamics—that it’s impossible for any com-
pany’s devices to be wholly original. Tech com-
panies used to let minor patent violations slide,
but the rise of patent-hording trolls has changed
this. Now everyone’s instinct is to sue.
The best tech companies
stay at their peak for a
decade at most. Amazon,
Apple, Facebook, and Google
have the potential to be
is actually inventing new stuff.
Tech companies are ephemeral enterprises,
with a built-in obsolescence much like their
products. The best firms stay at their peak for
a decade tops; most get snuffed out before anyone even notices them. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have the potential to be exceptions to this rule. Their CEOs are driven, disciplined, and relatively young (Cook, the oldest,
will be 51 in November). All but Cook are founders, and their personalities are such that they
seem unlikely to get tired or bored by their
empire building. Their market caps and strong
revenue growth should allow them to neutralize other would-be rivals—witness Bezos acquiring Zappos and Quidisi ( Diapers.com)
before either could become a threat.
As our modern oligarchy, and as individual
companies, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and
Google will not last forever. But despite this oncoming war, in which attacking one another
becomes standard operating practice, their inevitable slide into irrelevancy likely won’t be at
the hands of one of their fellow rivals. As always,
the real future of tech belongs to some smart-ass
kid in a Palo Alto garage.