His main thesis?Android has so many patent and copyright suits being filed against it that it can't survive, and that it could drag Google down with it.
My initial response on this was that the effort was self-defeating, that it was attempt to end competition through the force of law, and competition doesn't work that way. I even trotted out my picture of Samuel Slater, whose mill (a mile from where my mom grew up) in Pawtucket R.I. was a deliberate copy of a protected British design. Slater had to smuggle himself into the country in order to steal that intellectual property.
The simpler answer to Florian's point is not a look back at our own history but a single word – China.
It's an important point which a friend reminded me of recently. Android let Chinese OEMs create their own software ecosystem. They're not going to give it up.
Early in the decade Intel, for instance, made better wireless chips than rivals like Broadcom, but the Taiwanese were all using Broadcom. Why? Turned out Broadcom offered “reference designs” that the Taiwanese could follow easily, plus a ready order flow, while Intel offered a “software ecosystem” the OEMs had to puzzle through themselves. There was no contest.
In today's hottest markets Apple plays the Broadcom role. If you are chosen to produce an iPhone or iPad part or assembly, you're golden. If not, too bad. But while you may feel golden working for Apple, you are completely dependent. Your entire stock is spoken for. You don't have any leverage with Apple – they in effect own you. They have your fate in their hands.
One way in which OEMs innovate is to build their own drivers, allowing them either a broader range of suppliers or (just as important) allowing them to make improvements in the original design, giving themselves a proprietary advantage and intellectual property they can control (since the base license is Apache and not the GPL). They can also tweak the user interface, partly to make their own products unique but also to grab new markets (like alternative languages). And they can build their own apps.
Result? Taiwan and China are building a software market. Taiwan and China love Android.
Taiwan and China are not going to give up Android, no matter what some American court says, any more than 19th century America gave up its manufacturing base, even after England began flooding our market with cheaper goods. (We erected tariff barriers instead, and did not drop them until our costs were lower.)
Which brings me to a second point. Value in hardware comes from software. Android lets Taiwan and China build a competitive software market. All that's needed for effective competition then are distribution channels and marketing, which they're learning much more slowly. But they're learning.
China is not going to go back down the technology food chain just because an American or European court says Android violates someone else's patent or copyright. They're just not.
Google knows this, which is why Android was at first deployed so widely. And why Google is now trying to tighten things up a bit, with its Honeycomb release. The link established by that release is going to be very flexible – it's going to become open source – because China wants it that way. Google will get its way so long as it's just enforcing rules intended to increase Android's market share and enhance the customer experience. Hopefully, through this process, Google can teach the OEMs that open source is a two-way street, but we'll see about that.
It sure didn't work with Sam Slater.