Even a week later, it’s still difficult to visit Google+ or Facebook without seeing a string of comments and/or posts concerning boycotting Apple. Likewise, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a very strong opinion about various technology companies. Corporations are becoming something of a religion, and that scares me quite a bit.
In the case of Apple, recent patent lawsuits including a temporary injunction granted against the Galaxy Nexus smartphone have been met with a backlash from Android fans including a loud call for a complete boycott against the tech giant.
I can’t help but to stare in awe at the amount of sheer passion that currently exists among users of these little electronic gadgets. 20 years ago, would there have been so much time and energy being spent by so many people to dispute a patent claim between IBM and its industry rivals? Is this one of the byproducts of social media?
Apple Vs. Microsoft
This passion between technology companies and their customers has existed for quite some time. For decades now, there has been a debate between Apple users and customers of Microsoft over which company produces better products. The Mac vs. PC debate is still as strong as ever, with each side dredging up all the fouls and home runs of their respective companies. In a sense, this is the best marketing any corporation could hope for. When a driven user base is willing to go to bad for your company and defend it tooth and nail against the competition, it removes all liability and effort on your part to do the same.
What strikes me as somewhat humorous about the whole situation is that when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, so did Bill Gates and Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft settled with Apple through a groundbreaking patent settlement including a cross-licensing for any existing and future patents for a period of five years. In addition, Microsoft bought a significant number of non-voting shares in the company, which arguably saved it from going under after what could only be described as the corporation’s worst five years. During the keynote announcing this deal, Steve Jobs said, “We have to move away from the mentality that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”
You’d think this heated rivalry between factions would have come to a close that day, but it most certainly hasn’t. Mentioning anything about OS X or Windows these days still breeds a fight in the comments thread almost every time.
Apple has only touched on the topic of this rivalry in recent years through its Mac Vs. PC campaign. With the shift of tech world heading in a mobile direction, both Apple (and its fans) are now targeting the new kid on the block, Google’s Android operating system.
Android Vs. iOS
Perhaps the biggest argument being waged among geeks these days centers around Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS present on its line of iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch devices. While the two operating systems do have several striking features in common, it should be abundantly clear that better is relative when it comes to mobile platforms.
Android users love the way Android works. Its modular and modifiable interface makes it a dream for users that like to have more control over every aspect of their mobile computing experience. Likewise, the iOS platform is known for being consistent across all supported devices. Fragmentation is a large concern for Android developers, while limitations on functionality are well-known to iOS developers. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it could be difficult for a fan of one platform to see why anyone would go for the opposing platform.
It’s funny to me that you really don’t see this kind of rivalry very often surrounding Microsoft’s Windows Phone, RIM (recently), or webOS. I suppose popularity plays a large role in fanaticism.
Either way, patent disputes have been going on for as long as patent law has existed. Corporations buy companies explicitly for the patents they posses, because patents are the new product. If you develop a new way of overcoming a technological hurdle, you’re almost guaranteed a buyout these days if you have the foresight to patent your idea. The rights to that idea are far more valuable than the products themselves (for some reason) thanks to the way the current patent system exists.
Apple has been called out for achieving an injunction against the Galaxy Nexus. This isn’t the first time Apple has taken legal action to protect its patents, and the reasoning behind these actions can be a much deeper rabbit hole than it might appear on the surface.
For starters, if you don’t defend your patent in one case, you may lose any legal grounds you have to defend it in another. It’s not like other companies aren’t suing to protect their own properties. Apple just happens to be the one that received an injunction.
Android fans see Apple as a giant mega corporation that’s greedy, seeing Google as a threat and stopping at nothing to get Android devices off the shelves. While yes, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have both made remarks concerning Android as being a violation of Apple’s patents, it might also be said that Motorola Mobile (a property of Google) is doing the same thing by defending its own patents against Apple and Microsoft. Just about every corporation with patents has gone to court to defend them, or protect itself from its own activities. This is how business is done these days, and it’ll take patent reform at the government level to fix it.
The so-called cult of the Mac isn’t really that far out of belief. There are plenty of people around the planet that have such an intense passion about their products that it has become something of a religion. It boggles my mind to think that this same heated passion, which some people spend hours per day expressing on various forums online, could be better targeted towards real issues such as politics, economics, civil rights, or even their own business.
You should be passionate about a subject. This passion can drive you to learn more about it and eventually form a career around something that you love. On the other hand, mindless screaming about one technology over another when someone does so much as express their appreciation for a particular brand’s product makes about as much sense as saying blue is a better color than red. Frankly, it’s concerning.
Technology In Style by Nico van der Merwe