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Google's Android system is true target of Apple offensive

Samsung’s Galaxy S III, right, competes with Apple’s iPhone 4S. The Samsung smartphone uses Android software developed by Google. Smartphones with the software now outsell Apple’s smartphones.

Associated Press

Samsung’s Galaxy S III, right, competes with Apple’s iPhone 4S. The Samsung smartphone uses Android software developed by Google. Smartphones with the software now outsell Apple’s smartphones.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Score this round in the battle for world domination: Apple 1, Google 0.

While Apple won a billion-dollar jury verdict last week in a patent dispute with Samsung, experts say the trial was just one front in a broader war between the Cupertino, Calif., computermaker and its Mountain View, Calif., rival, Google, whose Android mobile software outranks Apple's as the world's leading smartphone platform.

The jury's verdict is widely seen as a setback for the "Android ecosystem" of hardware manufacturers, including Samsung, and application developers who use Google's mobile software. But it's not a death blow, according to industry experts, who say the outcome won't end a growing rivalry between Apple and Google that extends from smartphones to online maps, books, videos and even tools for seeking information online.

"Samsung is just collateral damage," said Roger Kay, a longtime industry analyst. "I think Apple's going to try to use this victory as a way to beat on Google further."

Android's success is vastly important to Google, which developed the software as part of its strategy for delivering lucrative advertising, information and services to the growing numbers of people who use smartphones and tablets instead of personal computers to go online. Analysts say any blow to Android is a threat to Google's ability to keep pace with the mobile computing trend.

A nine-member jury in San Jose's federal court concluded on Friday that several of Samsung's Android-based devices infringed some of Apple's patented designs and technology. The verdict "is unambiguously negative for Google and the Android ecosystem," Bernstein Research analyst A.M. Sacconaghi wrote in a report, adding that the outcome is likely to "embolden Apple's legal strategy" against other makers of smartphones and tablets.

"That said, we don't think it's a game-changing loss for Android," he added, because the verdict affects only certain older Samsung models sold in the U.S. market, while Android is used in a wide variety of gadgets sold around the world.

Despite the iPhone's phenomenal success, the number of smartphones sold by all manufacturers using Android is even larger. Android has become so popular, in part, because Google doesn't charge makers of mobile devices to use the software, which can lower the price for consumers, too. Google makes money by selling ads and targeting services to consumers who use its software, although it closely guards the details of its mobile revenue stream.

Several analysts said it shouldn't be difficult for Samsung and other makers of smartphones to alter designs and replace features that infringe on Apple's patents.

"None of these patents are impossible to work around," said Van Baker, a mobile technology expert at the Gartner research firm. "This won't require anyone to go back and completely redefine their products."

Samsung said it would ask the trial judge to overturn the verdict or it would appeal. In a court filing Monday, Apple urged U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh to ban the sale in the United States of eight models of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones.

While Apple applauded the jury for protecting its intellectual property, Google issued a statement Sunday that essentially cautioned against reading too much into the decision.

"The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office," it said. "The mobile industry is moving fast, and all players — including newcomers — are building upon ideas that have been around for decades."

Google's Android system is true target of Apple offensive 08/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 7:05pm]
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