Is Android a stolen product?

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Before he died, Steve Jobs stated that he believed Android to be a ‘stolen’ product. This has caused a massive controversy across the internet and a lot of folks are seriously upset by the statement. Is Android a stolen product, or was this just a statement by Mr. Jobs surrounding a personal agenda?

When the Steve Jobs biography was published, a loud outcry from the collective readers went up. “Android is a stolen product!” they shout. But where did this idea come from? Why would someone, let alone a major tech mogul like Jobs, say that Android was stolen? The Android operating system (OS) was first developed by a company called Android, Inc. in Pala Alto, California back in 2003. At the time, Android, Inc. was comprised of a number of high profile developers, like Andy Rubin and Nick Sears. Both of them had a ton of experience in various tech fields as well as in the cellular phone industry. At that time, Android, Inc. announced publicly that it was working on software for mobile phones. That’s all they stated. There was a heavy air of secrecy around the company and what they were working on, and speculations ran rampant.

Rumors and speculations also had a huge injection of fresh interest when, also in 2003, Rubin reported a lack of funds and was bailed out by technology giant Steve Perlman. Perlman, it is said, gave a ten thousand dollar infusion of capital to Rubin and even turned down an official stake in the company. Looking back, one has to wonder if he didn’t want his name tied into the knot of folks who would be at the forefront of the coming conflict.

In 2005, Google acquired Android, Inc. and the communications rumor mill shifted into full grind mode. Google made no announcement at the time of what their intentions were for the company they had just acquired and so speculation that they would enter the mobile phone market were thrown about like tennis balls at Wimbledon. The project went forward apparently as planned and while the occasional bit of news was released, little in the way of press was actually given to the public at the time. Some assumed that Google was interested in integrating its search features in mobile phones and others believed that Google was attempting to develop an entire handset, not just software. In 2007 Google was reported as having filed several patents in the area of mobile phone technology. Then, on November 5th of 2007, the Open Handset Alliance was announced and released their first product: Android, a platform for cellular and other mobile phones that was announced as “a revolution in mobile technology” by many in the industry. The first iPhone was unveiled earlier that same year in January by Mr. Jobs and Apple. In his biography, years later, Mr. Jobs states’, “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 [at the time … this has grown massively since], to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Looking back at the early development of the argument, it reads like the opening chapters of a mid-90s spy novel. Technology company versus technology company. Parallel development of similar products and release of said products within less than a year of each other. This is a story we have seen before. Atari computers versus Commodore computers, for example. Playstation versus Xbox, IBM versus Apple, and further back. Ford versus Chevrolet, Shwinn versus Huffy, Joe’s Catapult’s versus Tony’s Trebuchets. OK, I made up the last one, but the point is clear. The world of technology has nearly always thrived on centralized conflicts between two major competitors in any given field of study and development. Why do I bring this up? The point I want to make is that while it may seem like a big deal when you’re buried under the details of the conflict, in the grand scheme of things it’s not really that surprising or important. Not to the average cellular phone user, at any rate. Despite the conflict between Apple and Google over the similarities between iOS and Android OS, the fact remains that the average user of either platform doesn’t experience much in the way of fallout or blowback from it. We are all still able to use our selected devices, and the functionality for each has improved and expanded over time. One might even argue that the long history of great minds thinking alike, especially in the area of intellectual properties like technology and tech theory, means that it’s more likely that both products stemmed from some unknown and un-credited source in history before Mr. Jobs or Mr. Rubin ever talked to anyone about it. In the end result, both products have become the major players in the cellular world, including the area of hardware to support and drive the operating systems. The average person on the street has, in fact, benefitted from the conflict, as each company strives to provide new and better innovations than the other.

So, my answer to the question “Is Android a stolen product,” is as follows:

Who cares? I know I paid three hundred dollars for my phone, so it’s not stolen from my point of view.

This may seem silly, to some, but my point is that the conflict itself really only affects the bigwigs involved at the top in any really negative way. As users of the technologies, we have reaped benefits from the ongoing lack of resolution between the two companies and their respective products. Sure, there may be something you can do on an iPhone that you can’t do on an Android or vice versa, but the products have become affordable, reliable, and indispensible to most of us, and that means, from my view, that Apple and Google are both winners in this conflict. So the question of theft is moot. Besides which, there simply isn’t enough evidence presented on either side for any real decision to be made, which is why they have both waffled back and forth in various courts over various details of the conflict, but the real heart of the matter has never been resolved. It seems likely that it won’t be resolved any time soon, and if history is an example, we will reap the rewards of it for years to come. Let them go at each other, as long as we get to keep our smartphones, it’s not a problem.

Until next time, my friends!