Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt speaks during a launch event for the company’s Nexus 7 tablet in Korea at the Grand Intercontinental Seoul, Thursday. / Courtesy of Google Korea
By Cho Mu-hyun
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made it clear Thursday that he is against patent wars in the mobile phone industry, expressing his frustration with Apple’s recent move to file a myriad of legal attacks against users of the Android operating system (OS), including Samsung Electronics.
He stressed that companies should compete in the market place with products, saying that patent disputes are hurting consumer choice and preventing innovation.
“Literally patent wars prevent choice, prevent innovation and I think that is very bad. We are obviously working through that and trying to make sure we stay on the right side of these issues. So ultimately Google stands for innovation as opposed to patent wars,” Schmidt said in a launching event for the company’s Nexus 7 tablet at the Grand Intercontinental Seoul.
He said Google feels very strongly that ultimately companies must vie in the market place with better products. Similar statements, such as “innovation and choice” have been used by Samsung Electronic as jabs against Apple after it lost a patent case in San Jose, California.
“I think one of the worst things that happened in the last few years has been the belief that somehow there are so many patents in the mobile phone world, an estimated 200,000 that are overlapping and complicated and so forth, that one vendor can stop the sale of another vendor’s phones or devices.
However, Schmidt said that Apple “is actually a very good partner. Our two companies are literally talking all the time about everything.”
“With respect to Apple patents, the best thing we can tell there are plenty of prior arts and I don’t want to go beyond that,” he added.
The chief executives also reaffirmed the strong relationship with Samsung Electronics.
“I will be meeting with Samsung as well as with other important partners as I do every time I come here. With Samsung, as you can imagine, they are one of our most important partners and there is much to discuss.”
The Suwon, Korea-based smartphone maker is the top vendor of phones using Google’s Android OS thanks to the popularity of its Galaxy series. It launched Galaxy Note II Wednesday, much earlier than expected aimed at impacting on the sales of Apple’s iPhone 5, which is coming late October or early November.
Though Schmidt came to Korea and met with Samsung executives last year in November, his visit Thursday garnered much attention by the industry here as the clash between Android and the iOS camp has intensified due to the patent fight between Apple and Samsung.
Many speculate that the iPhone maker’s real target is Google. Answering questions on whether Google will assist vendors, Schmidt said: “all I want to say publicly (is that) we fully intend to support the ecosystem as it evolves. The Android ecosystem is really central, in my view, to the successful moving forward of the market.”
The chairman held a meeting with Samsung mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun and corporate strategy office head Choi Gee-sung in which the two are speculated to have deliberated on the issue of pressure from Apple in the ongoing legal dispute. He refused to unveil details in a separate meeting with reporters at Samsung’s headquarters, only saying it was “a normal meeting.” Choi said that Google is a good partner but refused to answer any more questions. Schmidt’s visit here is also seen as a move to rally Android vendors as the competition in the market place is also getting fiercer due to the upcoming Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform.
During the event, the chairman showed off the Nexus 7 tablet, and said he couldn’t wait to see what Korea would do with this new device.
The chairman also commented on the fast-paced dissemination of smartphones here: “Your country has gone from having almost no smartphones three years ago; and it happened everywhere in just three years.”
“The technology that can really change lives and people’s existence is happening now, and is within sight, and especially visible here in Korea. I like Korea because Korea represents the best mobile usage, and that is what I’ve been working on.”
The Internet giant’s new device will be the first on the domestic market packing its latest operating system Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The 16 gigabyte model will be sold for 299,000 won ($267.16). Pre-orders for the device will start Friday and it will be available in retail stores in mid-October.