Google CEO Eric Schmidt during an interview at Googles Mobile Revolution currently underway in Tokyo (as reported by ZD Net suggested litigation rather than innovation was the weapon of choice for its competitors in the mobile space.
It’s interesting recalling Steve Jobs comment from his interview at the All Things D conference in 2010 saying that Google went into mobile and Apple didn’t go into the search business. In 2007 there was no Android and iOS came out first. Certainly Android was well advanced when iOS was released, however it was still some time before it came to market to genuinely compete.
Therein lies the problem: you need to have a product in the market first steal ideas from it (unless you have good corporate spies I suppose). The suggestion that there is a lack of innovation is quite laughable. With comparison to Windows Phone 7 nothing could be further in design and function from Android or iOS. WebOS predates Android as well and its navigation through gestures (although less so with their new TouchPad) is also quite unique. The RIM Playbook is more of a WebOS clone. The only reasonable competitor they could be referring to is Apple. The joke is that Android was subtlely tweaked to include some ideas from the iPhone prior to its launch. Now the shoe’s on the other foot as the new iOS notifications are similar in some ways to the Android notification system.
That said, holding an iOS5 device in one hand and an Android device in the other and there’s little chance people would confuse the two experiences. Whether you subscribe to the belief that it’s possible to innovate by taking other peoples ideas and tweaking them (and this doesn’t constitute patent infringement) or not, everyone in an industry should be looking at other peoples ideas and using them as inspiration to see if they could make their own products better. This advances the so-called state of the art and sets a new standard for that industry. Whether you agree with patent lawsuits or not however is a different discussion. The reality is that they are reality and companies need to factor that in when doing business in the R&D sector. When Google entered into this area of the market I don’t think they thought enough about it. Crying about it now when the damage has been done just illustrates that perhaps they still need parental supervision from someone else other than Schmidt.