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Aug 29 2012   9:35AM GMT

Samsung Ruling Could Alter Technology Power Balance

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller

The Samsung ruling could have far-reaching implications that ultimately upset the balance of power in the mobile marketplace.

The ruling against Samsung last week that found it infringed on Apple’s patents might truly have shaken the technology world, and the decision could have a ripple effect of unintended consequence across the industry.

The parties in the courtroom, especially that overmatched jury, might not have known this, but this decision has the potential to upset the delicate balance of power among the technology titans, which is how I’ve referred to Google, Microsoft, Apple and to some extent Facebook over the years..

Over time, these companies have battled it out like the mythical Greek gods. They have each had their era of dominance in one way or another, but over time, they seem to have kept each other in check, so that none could gain too much power of the marketplace.

The Samsung ruling could change that and give Apple a distinct market advantage. Already Apple has filed an injunction against Samsung to ban the sales of 8 Samsung phones. Some believe that the underlying motivation of this trial was not so much Samsung, but to weaken the Android operating system and Google in the process.

What’s interesting to me is that Google has made itself all the more vulnerable when it became not just the Android developer, but a hardware seller too. I have always thought Google would do best to stay out of the hardware business, but mostly because its entry has the potential to undercut its carefully-crafted Android ecosystem. But now, it seems with Android potentially in Apple’s crosshairs, by making itself a hardware seller, Google has left itself wide open to a similar attack that befell Samsung. Somewhere Steve Jobs is smiling.

That’s because anyone who read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography knows he was hopping mad when he saw the first Android phones, going so far as to say he would spend all of Apple’s considerable fortune to destroy it.

Jobs may be gone, but his company remains and the legal strategy seems apparent. This ruling merely emboldens Apple to continue and go after the goal Jobs stated so clearly. If this ruling holds up — and it will surely be appealed — it has broad implications for the mobile space in particular and the delicate balance of power that works to keep a free and unfettered marketplace.

Meanwhile, some are saying Microsoft could benefit from the ruling, which could propel manufacturers like Samsung to shy away from Android phones and look for a “safer” alternative. As an article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out, however, there needs to be a market first, and Microsoft is caught in a Catch-22 situation, unable to build enough marketshare to attract developers and unable to attract enough developers because of lack of marketshare.

Whatever happens, if Apple is allowed to bully Samsung out of the marketplace as a result of this ruling, it could have a profound impact on the smartphone market, and that could have upset the delicate balance of power in the technology industry, something even the biggest Apple fanboi should fear because Apple left unchecked by market forces may grow too powerful for its own good, and the consumer could end up being the biggest loser in this case if that happens.

Photo by opensourceway on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

3  Comments on this Post

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  • mgj
    Distinct market advantage was Apple's invention. Lessening the advantage was unearned theft. If we all benefit from theft, is it no longer theft?
    320 pointsBadges:
  • Ron Miller
    You can look at it as theft, and the courts have ruled that way, but many have said it was specious patent for starters. What would be better would be to agree on some standard smart phone and tablet features and then innovate on top of those instead of clogging the courts with lawsuits about who owns the basic design of something that has become common place.
    580 pointsBadges:
  • Ianages
    It is questionable if this ruling will stand up on appeal, there are clear indications that the jury was mislead by one member who is a patent holder himself. He told the other 11 jury members about how prior art is to be interpreted - "The software on the Apple side could not be placed into the processor on the prior art and vice versa. That means they are not interchangeable." and in this way he was able to get the jury to discount the prior art. In my opinion he was serving his own best interests. See shashdot with the headline "Misunderstanding of Prior Art May Have Led to Apple-Samsung Verdict" for more info.
    25 pointsBadges:

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