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Google accuses Apple and Microsoft of teaming up to strangle Android

Chris Rawson, @@rawsoncj
August 3, 2011
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David Drummond, Senior VP and Chief Legal Officer at Google, has posted a diatribe against Apple and Microsoft, both competitors against Google's Android platform. "Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other's throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on," Drummond writes.

What's going on according to Drummond? It's "a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents." Some of those said "bogus" patents, it bears mentioning, were subject to a US$900 million opening bid from Google, a bid the company later lost to a consortium of companies including Apple and Microsoft. Just saying, $900 million is a lot of money to put on the table for something that's bogus.

"Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it," Drummond says. I can't argue with that -- Lodsys immediately comes to mind -- but is he trying to tell us that Google would never leverage the Nortel patents against Apple and Microsoft if the bidding had gone the other way? Indeed, that seems to be exactly what he's saying when he accuses competitors of "fighting through litigation" instead of "competing by building new features or devices."

"Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices - and fewer choices for their next phone," Drummond says. It's hard for me to read this, or the rest of Drummond's piece, without translating it thus: Google is scared.

The question is, should Google be scared? That depends on a few things: the strength of the Nortel patents, any possible regulatory intervention in the purchase of those patents, Apple and/or Microsoft's willingness to actively pursue patent claims and "strangle" Android, and finally, the courts' determination as to whether or not Google has violated those patents. It's pretty obvious on casual inspection that Google hasn't been innovating in a vacuum, however, so if Apple or Microsoft actually are intent on "strangling" the free ride Android's had so far, then maybe Google should be exactly as scared as it sounds.

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