Apple to Google, Palm: Do Not Rip Off Our iPhone IP

Includes: AAPL, GOOG, PALM
by: Mick Weinstein

On the Apple earnings call last night, COO Tim Cook fired a shot across the bow of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Palm (PALM) when asked about their handsets' threat to his iPhone. My emphasis added:

Mike Abramsky - RBC Capital Markets

Yeah. Thanks very much. Maybe shifting to the iPhone. There's now a number of competitors coming to the market, many who will have their own sort of variance on the sort of, say, customer experience that iPhone was famous for initiating, and that includes things like Android and Windows and the Palm Pre. I was just wondering, beyond what's obviously been a powerful leadership in applications, how do you think about sustaining that leadership and brand in the face of these competitive developments in this sector going forward?

Tim Cook

Mike hi, it's Tim. I would say first of all, it's difficult to judge products that are not yet in the market. But the iPhone has sold over 17 million units thus far. It's received the highest overall customer satisfaction of products from many different surveys. And, we've said since the beginning software is the key ingredient and we believe that we're still years ahead on software. And I would include in that software umbrella, the Applications Store, and you can see the explosion that has happened in applications with over half a billion downloads.

If you look at others, I think when you think about having multiple variations of displays, multiple variations of resolutions and input methods, and many different forms of hardware, it's a big challenge to a software developer and is not very enticing for them to build a different App for every one of these things. But, we shall see what people will do.

We approach this business as a software platform business, and so I think we approach it fundamentally different than people that are approaching it only from a hardware point of view. And so, as I've said before, we're very, very confident with where we are competitively. We are watching the landscape. We like competition. As long as they don't rip off our IP and if they do we're going to go after anybody that does.

Mike Abramsky - RBC Capital Markets

That was actually my next question because,

Tim Cook

I thought it might be. And that's the reason I want to go ahead and get that out.

Mike Abramsky - RBC Capital Markets

Because, it seems until Palm came out, many of the other players had in fact negotiated carefully around your multi-touch IP; whereas, the Palm device particularly seems to almost directly emulate the kind of touch interfaces that you had innovated and that Steve, when he launched the phone, talked about patented. Is that to what you're referring with regarding to ripping off IP?

Tim Cook

I don't want to talk about any specific company. I'm just making a general statement that we think competition is good. It makes us all better. And we are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we'll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal. I don't know that I can be clearer than that.

Hat tip John Paczkowski, who reminds us this comes

after the debut of [Palm's] Pre, which some critics claim boasts more than a handful of Apple-esque design flourishes. Understandable, perhaps, since Palm’s executive chairman is Jon Rubinstein, the former Apple executive who was behind the iPod.

Patent and IP attorneys, get ready to suit up.

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