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Why HTC?

In the suit against HTC, Apple’s listed infringing phones include HD2, Touch Pro2, Tilt2, Imagio, Pure and Touch Diamond. These all run Windows Mobile and not Android. HTC shipped 80% of the Windows Mobile units in the field, a far larger volume than Android so it stands to reason that the law suit is as much targeting Windows Mobile as Android.

In 2006 Microsoft announced that their partners/OEMs/Operators will get indemnification on IP suits regarding their OS. It’s not a sure thing that Apple’s patents cover any part of the Windows Mobile stack–vs. whatever parts HTC layered on top. However, there is a high probability that Microsoft will join Google in HTC’s defense.

I should also point out that the media’s emphasis on Google as the exclusive target of the suit is sensationalistic. Focusing on Google possibly misses a hidden agenda.

Namely that Apple is attacking the hub of the modular approach to mobile computing while largely leaving the integrated vendors like Palm and RIM alone (the dispute with Nokia is over license terms for GSM patents and not yet about UI patents).

Therefore it’s entirely likely that HTC was singled out to disrupt the business logic of modular mobile software. HTC is the pioneer and the hub as the largest licensee for both WinMo/WinP and Android and the inspiration for hundreds of OEM/ODMs to make modular products.

HTC’s defense will be complicated and difficult due to these dependencies. Legal risk weighs heavily on large corporations, especially when the payoff is marginal at best. Other vendors looking at this licensing model might think harder about participating, and that may be the whole point.


  • M

    "the hub of the modular approach to mobile computing while largely leaving the integrated vendors like Palm and RIM alone"
    What is the "modular approach"?

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    IBM PCs were an "integrated architecture". Windows is "modular architecture". Part of the reason that IBM lost its battle to Microsoft is that IBM failed to recognize that when PCs became modular and conformable collections of parts, the value shifted to the key components of the PCs: the Intel chip and the Windows operating system.

    Research shows that value tends to migrate to integrated layers adjacent to modular components. When the PC was still an "integrated" system, everyone wanted IBM PCs because the name IBM was a shorthand that guaranteed for the seamlessness of the user experience.

    The same thing is happening in mobile computing. In the early stages of development, when the products are not good enough, an integrated approach to development is more competitive. Apple's products today are more competitive vs. those where the hardware and software are built by separate companies.

  • M

    But "modular" design cannot be patented, especially if its been used in the IBM PC all along. Or are you saying that Apple is attacking HTC because it is the most likely competitor to be successful, because it makes use of the "modular" design.

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    What I am saying is that HTC is the prototype for Motorola, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and if HTC gets bogged down in litigation for using WinMo and Android, then they'll think twice about doing the same. It would also imply that acquisitions of RIM and Palm for their software assets are more likely.

    If the bigger volume vendors choose to build rather than buy/lease software then it also fragments the competition for Apple, so it's a double win.

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