‘Steve Jobs swore to destroy Android’

Steve Jobs swore to “destroy Android” in his anger over what he saw as outright copying of Apple’s ideas in Android phones unveiled early in 2010, according to a new biography being released following his death this month.

Walter Isaacson, Jobs’s official biographer, says Jobs was livid in January 2010 when Taiwan’s HTC introduced an Android phone with many of the popular features of the iPhone. He launched into an expletive-laden tirade in which he said Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft”.

By that time Eric Schmidt, then Google’s chief executive and still its chairperson, had left the board of Apple where he had served between 2006 and 2009 — crucially, covering the period during which the first iPhone was launched and which enabled Google to negotiate a deal to provide search, maps and its YouTube video service on the phones.

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs told Isaacson. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

In a subsequent meeting with Schmidt at a cafe in Palo Alto, California, Jobs told Schmidt he wasn’t interested in settling the lawsuit, the book says. “I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5bn, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.” The meeting, Isaacson wrote, resolved nothing.

The meeting may be that which occurred at the end of March 2010, when the duo were spotted having coffees outside a cafe in Palo Alto and which was discussed widely on the web. Jobs and Schmidt appeared to be on friendly terms — though the content of the discussion was unclear. At the time Jobs was heard to say, “They’re going to see it all eventually so who cares how they get it” but then added “Let’s go discuss this somewhere more private”.

By that time Apple had begun a lawsuit against HTC, alleging that it infringed 20 patents belonging to Apple. In the press release, Jobs was quoted as saying: “We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

The lawsuit has still not been resolved: HTC has counter-sued Apple, and the tit-for-tat battle has continued.

Apple’s patent claims against HTC would be applicable against all Android smartphone handsets if they succeed, suggests Florian Müller, an independent consultant on patents. In July, the US International Trade Commission ruled that HTC had infringed one of Apple’s patents and that this could mean that a US import ban might be applicable. HTC has appealed against the decision.

The decision rests on a key patent filed by Apple in 1996, which is valid until 2016. Known as “647”, it turns phone numbers or addresses into clickable links.

After Google launched its Android operating system at the end of 2008, and the first phones appeared in 2009, the rivalry between the two companies became more and more intense — especially after Google began to tailor Android to use more of the ideas introduced by the iPhone, such as touch-screen control to control a range of icons and the “pinch-to shrink” system for resizing images.

Isaacson’s biography of Jobs is being officially published on Monday. — guardian.co.uk

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Charles Arthur
Charles Arthur works from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Journalist, speaker, moderator. The Guardian’s Technology editor 2009-14. Coming May ‘18: Cyber Wars, on hacking. Prev: Digital Wars: Apple v Google v Microsoft Charles Arthur has over 74656 followers on Twitter.

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