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Apple May Be Disrupting Its Own Supply Chain With Android Suits

It’s no secret that the late Steve Jobs hated the Android operating system and its devices. Even after his death, his company continues attacking Android’s top device manufacturer, Samsung, despite the fact that Samsung also supplies about $7 billion worth of required parts for Apple’s iPad and iPhones. Without those parts, Apple’s major business would grind to a halt, yet Apple itself only makes up about 7.6% of Samsung’s total global revenue.

This means that without Apple, Samsung would survive, but without Samsung, Apple would be in dire straights.

Despite this, Apple continues relentless pursuit of patent infringement rulings to shut down Android products. One of those recurring attempts is against Samsung – in fact, most of them are. To the tune now of 18 ‘new infringing products’ claims in just the last few months.

Millions of dollars in legal bills are being racked up in the name of Jobs’ revenge (or maybe Jobs’ posthumous tirade, depending on who you ask).

The courtroom zeal against Android doesn’t stop with Samsung, however. In fact, no mobile device maker appears immune, with Apple lawyers having sent summons to Motorola, HTC, and others. About three dozen of them in all, internationally.

Shortly before his death, Jobs explained to his biographer Walter Isaacson that the litigation being volleyed at these manufacturers was meant to communicate one simple message to Google: ‘you f..king ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.’ Jobs swore to spend every penny in Apple’s accounts to ‘right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android..’

The problem? Every attack is met with a return attack and often by companies whose size and power are equal to or even greater than Apple’s. The counter-attacks include challenges to Apple’s patents. Challenges that could potentially topple Apple’s exclusive rights to what we think of as the iPhone and iPad and other iOS devices.

Arguably one of Apple’s most valued patents are those protecting the minimalist designs it employs for its products. These are routinely challenged and could easily succumb to attack, thus destroying Apple’s brand in terms of its products’ appearance.

Apple’s exclusivity and tight control over its operating systems and devices are completely the opposite of Google’s approach of open collaboration and even free giveaways. Today’s war for domination of smart gadgets is similar to the war waged (and lost) by Apple against Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s over desktop computer operating systems. In that war, MS’ DOS / Windows OS nearly killed Apple completely, sending it perilously close to bankruptcy and failure.

Currently, Android-based phones not only hold the majority stake in the mobile marketplace, but are on the rise – at a faster pace than are Apple’s products.

So far, in this war of the smart phone operating systems, Apple has generally lost most of the battles. Including the battle for public relations, as many consumers are seeing the patent attacks at vindictive and snobbish. What do you think?

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