Patent wars merely leveling the playing field against Google Android

Paul Thurrott of Windows Super Site is never one to let a good piece of anti-Apple link bait go by, but this time he's turned his attention towards Google's Android, and how Google "dumping" it on the market for free could be a greater anticompetitive act than Microsoft or Apple patent litigation.

Arguably, by "dumping" Android in the market at no cost, Google--which has unlimited cash and can afford to do such a thing--is behaving in an anticompetitive fashion. In fact, one could argue that Google is using its dominance in search advertising to unfairly gain entry into another market by giving that new product, Android, away for free. Does this remind you of any famous antitrust case?

From which, 10 years later, Microsoft is arguably still reeling. Thurrott's point, and it's worth noting, is that no one is innocent here.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball raises a similar point.

Google supporters claim that Google only wants to use patents defensively. But what exactly does Google need to defend against, if not actual patents Android actually violates? How is Google’s argument here different than simply demanding that Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, et al should simply sit back and let Google do whatever it wants with Android, regardless of the patents they hold? And, let’s not forget, give Android away for free.

Which Gruber boils down to hypocrisy, a theme increasingly present in Google coverage.

Which is not to say Google is doing anything different than any other public company seeing to it's own self-interests (and I'll repeat -- any company sufficiently large is indistinguishable from evil). It's just that Google feels so smug about it right now, which is ironic given smugness is usually a quality ascribed to Apple.

In Apple's case, the smugness comes from their sense that they know better than us, that they have better taste, and that we'll take what they tell us to take. In Google's case, however, the smugness now seems to come from a feeling that they think we're too dumb to see the hypocrisy. It's as if they think they can shout "open" and "free" and not actually be open or free (or be open and free on the backs of manufacturers and developers), and everyone from FOSS faithful to Google fanatics will rally to support them, no questions asked. It's as if they think they can shout "un-fair" and "anti-competitive" when faced with trademark and patent litigation from authors and rivals, while continuing to file their own trademarks and patents.

But user trust is a currency and a finite one. You can't spend more than you earn. That's a lesson Apple's learned painfully with everything from MobileMe to Steve Jobs' health to location-gate and antenna-gate. It will be interesting to see how Google learns it and addresses it.

[WinSuperSite, Daring Fireball]