Sammie singing the blues

sammy-bluesA recent article online, with the excruciatingly long title, Apple and Samsung Are Friendly Again, and the Competition Should Be Terrified, got me to thinking.

I mean it’s nice and all that the two companies are mending their fences, but what about the repercussions of the long and winding litigation that Apple has pursued against Samsung over the last few years?

Steve Jobs was quoted in the biography written by Walter Isaacson that he would spend every bit of Apple’s then $40 billion war chest to wage thermonuclear war against Google Android.

At the time, Jobs was reported to have said, “Our lawsuit is saying, ‘Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off…I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

Samsung became the primary target

Interestingly, Apple never sued Google for trademark or copyright infringement. Instead, the preeminent device maker decided to wage war against manufacturers who dared to use Android in their phones.

Although Apple went after several manufacturers, and notably settled with HTC, its primary target was Samsung.logo_samsung

In 2010, the enormous South Korean conglomerate, for whom Apple was (and continues to be) an important customer, launched Galaxy S smartphones that were decidedly similar in form and function to Apple’s iPhone.

What’s more, there was evidence emerging that Samsung “slavishly copied” the iPhone. Perhaps the most compelling example of this was a 132-page internal Samsung document that described how Samsung phones should be more like the iPhone.

Apple originally sued Samsung in April 2011, waged its legal campaign in a number of countries and on a number of fronts, and won some important victories along the way. None was the knockout blow that Apple had hoped for, but in a 15-round heavyweight bout, the winner is usually the one who lands more blows and leaves the ring with fewer bruises.

Bad karma?

How have the two companies fared during the four years that the litigation has unfolded? Has Apple won the war?

samsung-rainCertainly Apple has continued to fire on all cylinders despite the energy devoted to its litigation against Samsung. In fact, with the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last year, Apple really hit Samsung where it hurts.

Large-screen phones and so-called phablets had been the areas where Samsung really made the most significant inroads to the smartphone market.

However, If you look at the company’s financial results in the mobile space over the last six quarters, one might think that a bit of bad karma had finally caught up with Samsung.

What bad karma? If Apple’s contention that Samsung illegally copied Apple designs was cosmically correct, that bad karma.

In the last year, smartphone revenues have dropped for the South Korean manufacturer quarter over quarter. By the company’s own standards, sales of the Galaxy S5 were downright disappointing.

One might contend that, for Apple, it’s been more a war of attrition with Samsung than a decisive victory. Who knows—that might have been Apple’s plan all along. Because these days, Apple’s smartphone business is largely winning. Its strategy of relentless litigation against Samsung and other vendors seems to have taken those companies off their games.

Samsung’s smartphone business appears to be reeling, and Android’s marketshare dominance appears not to be generating much revenue for the company.

Maybe Steve Jobs won his thermonuclear war, after all.

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