iPhone 5 Boosted By Apple Courtroom Win?

By | Aug 29, 2012

As if the impending debut of the iPhone 5 were not already ruling the media buzz universe, Apple's big courtroom win over Samsung may have given it another prelaunch boost. Samsung and other makers of Android phones will now feel pressured to "design around" iPhone and iOS features. Result: Slower and costlier Android development cycles.

For the IT community at midsize firms this could be bad news. Not just about mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) options, but about the prospect of further legal battles. Earlier this year, Oracle's patent lawsuit against Google was a costly bust. But if Apple's courtroom win ends up strengthening its market position, other companies will be tempted to shift resources from technology development to legal maneuvering.

A Blow to Android

If Apple's favorable verdict in its patent suit against Samsung is upheld, Apple stands to gain more than $1 billion in damages. But as Lance Whitney reports at CNET, the jury award could be the least of Apple's gains. The iPhone, which was at the center of the lawsuit, also has gained a competitive advantage against rival Android phones.

The iPhone 5, expected to debut next month, was already on track to be a huge seller. Apple's courtroom victory will tilt the playing field in its favor. Makers of Android phones now face a new challenge: Staying away from anything that would trigger another Apple patent attack.

As Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty put it, "many smartphone makers may need to reconsider software and design features in current or upcoming smartphones." Huberty goes on to note that this concern could lead to longer development cycles. Not only will Android phones take longer to reach the market, but slower development will tend to mean costlier development as well.

More Patent Wars Ahead?

The BYOD trend has already weakened IT's control over its operating environment. And when it comes to the specific iOS versus Android contest, IT managers at midsize firms probably have mixed views. With Apple's iOS you know what you are getting, but what you are getting includes an awful lot of control by Apple. The Android environment is more flexible, but that also means it is often poorly defined.

In the broader picture, however, Apple's win is also a win for aggressive legal battles over patents. Many industry observers have come to feel that the patent system is dysfunctional. And after Oracle's costly lawsuit fizzle, there was hope that corporate enthusiasm for courtroom fights would fade. But Apple's big win may re-ignite vendors' zeal to go to court.

And while that may benefit individual vendors, it could be bad news for technology users, including the IT community at midsize firms.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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