A Silicon Valley jury has just proved that user interface elements, including some that can appear “basic”, like and have been proven to be invented before the iPhone, could possibly no longer be used in a commercial product without risking the (legal) wrath of Apple along with substantial financial damages. As you may know, Samsung has been slapped with a $1B damage decision in the Apple vs. Samsung case. This case may reverberate into the whole Android hardware eco-system.
Of course, there is going to be a Samsung appeal, and the final fine may fall down substantially. However, in a space where margins can be slim, the risk of legal claims hurting the bottom-line may prove to be too big of a burden for Android handset makers. While Samsung is strong enough to bear this type of shock, both from a financial point of view and from an intellectual property point of view (50% of the iPhone 4S’ components are from Samsung), most Android hardware makers may not be able to.
Also, the mere perspective of being punished -or banned- from the largest market in the world (the U.S) can put a cold damp on those who are counting on the Android operating system.
There are ample operating system (OS) choices out there, most of them are Linux-based (Meego…). Unfortunately, most have also proven that they were no longer sustainable in the current technological (or commercial) context. In this new world, Windows Phone 8 may offer a heaven to handset makers who just don’t want to “risk it all” with Android.
To date, Android handset makers are already paying Microsoft royalties for using Android (shocker, right?). In fact, Microsoft may even make more money from Android royalties than they do from Windows Phone 7 licenses.
If Android is no longer a secure environment to do business in, then why not use Windows Phone? After all, no-one in the smartphone has won a patent litigation against Microsoft. Additionally, the Windows Phone Metro interface is genuinely different from anything Apple has. There is simply no question about that.
With Windows Phone 8, handset makers can write their own hardware drivers, which means that a Samsung Galaxy S3 could run on Windows Phone 8. Of course, OEMs typically love Android because they can customize and differentiate. However, if there is a risk of getting in legal trouble – maybe differentiation isn’t worth the trouble. After all, laptop makers do fairly well with a monolithic operating system.
Do you think that Windows Phone and Microsoft could emerge as being a heaven for smart phone makers? Was Nokia right all along? Surely, the Samsung appeal and the final conclusion of the Apple/Samsung lawsuit may determine the future of Android and Microsoft’s mobile push – no pressure.