Apple's patent victory over Samsung is good for Android

Fretting over a chilling effect on Android is misguided: The ruling should now spur innovation in Google's mobile platform

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Because Apple has made the mobile patents fight so public and so much of a cause, it has forced the Android market to rethink its usual strategy of deriving its products from the work of others. Let's face it: Most of what we've seen in Android and especially Android devices is clearly "inspired" by what Apple and others have done. Yes, Apple has also been "inspired" by Android, so it's a two-way street. But the Android side has been far more so.

As a result of Apple's legal attack, Samsung's latest crown jewels -- the Galaxy Note phablet, Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, and Galaxy S III smartphone -- bring real innovation to the table. They're also much stronger competitors to Apple's products. One unintended consequence on Samsung has been to force it to be more innovative, which will only help Samsung compete with not just Apple but with other Android device makers.

If you look at the Android community, it's Samsung that owns the lion's share of the market, while HTC, Asus, and the rest have become minor providers of largely generic devices. Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, has been less innovative than Samsung but more so than the rest, occupying a middle ground also reflected in its middling market success.

Apple's crusade will force Android device makers, and Google for the operating system, to focus more on real innovation than on adopting versions of Apple innovations. Those up to the challenge -- and Samsung at least is -- will prosper and make Android better as a result. The others will languish as generic device makers found in bargain stores. There's money to be made there, but not a lot. And there's certainly no innovation that comes from the generics business.

Samsung in particular will benefit. It's become the face of the Android side in the mobile battle, and in many people's minds has become not a generic maker of Android devices but an equal to Apple because most people now see this as an Apple/Samsung battle. Apple has elevated Samsung's street cred, which Samsung has the ability to take advantage of.

The Apple-Samsung design patents case shows the legal system at its best: Patents designed to reward innovators have been both upheld and strongly affirmed by a jury. That will only encourage more innovation and discourage copiers. Surely the Android community can lead in innovation if it chooses to. And it should make that choice for its own benefit.

This article, "Apple's patent victory over Samsung is good for Android," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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