Steve Jobs was so angered by Google’s development of a smartphone operating system that would compete with Apple’s own that he pledged to “destroy” it even if it took all of the tech company’s then $40bn in assets, a new biography of the deceased Apple co-founder shows.
While the rift between Apple and Google – and their chief executives Jobs and Eric Schmidt – has been documented before, the depth of feeling on Jobs’ part raises the odds that the two companies will clash head-on in what could be an epic legal battle.
“I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this,” Jobs says at one point in the book, according to the Associated Press, which was among a few organisations that obtained early copies. At a meeting between the two Silicon Valley leaders at a Palo Alto restaurant, Jobs told Mr Schmidt, a former Apple director, that he would not take even $5bn to drop litigation, the AP said.
Thus far, Apple has sued only makers of phone handsets that use Google’s Android operating system, including Samsung and HTC. Though dozens of cases are in play, it has scored some early victories, including temporary bans against Samsung sales of an Android-based tablet in Germany, Australia and Holland.
Apple might not have sued Google yet because the biggest internet company by users has raised the defences elsewhere that it makes no direct profit from Android, which is distributed free, and has not delved deeply enough into the underlying patents to have knowledge of whether they could have violated some others, said legal analyst Florian Mueller.
But Google has now bought Motorola’s mobile phone division, putting it in direct hardware competition with Apple, and the extent of Jobs’ anger suggests that a large battle is brewing. Jobs died earlier this month aged 56.
“I think we are all in for a head-to-head collision between Google and Apple,” Mr Mueller told the Financial Times on Friday. Apple declined to comment and Google did not respond immediately to an interview request.
Apple has already cited the fact that one of Android’s leaders, Andy Rubin, worked under two Apple executives who patented relevant work. The iPhone and iPad maker’s strongest technical argument may be around the multi-touch gestures on screen, where Apple clearly led, Mr Mueller said.
But Jobs’ core beliefs are at a more emotional level, involving ideas, where the legal outcomes are less predictable, according to the book.
The 630-page book by Walter Isaacson, simply titled Steve Jobs, gives new details on many other areas of the secretive man’s professional and personal life, including his health and his romances.
It is based on dozens of interviews with Jobs that continued until just weeks before his death from cancer this month, as well as talks with family members and friends.
Some of the biggest revelations involve Jobs’ decisions on his medical treatment, where it appears that a man widely hailed as a genius made the poorest decisions possible.
It had been reported by Fortune magazine in 2008 that Jobs had delayed surgery for what he knew was a highly treatable form of cancer in his pancreas while he pursued alternatives. It emerges that Jobs resisted entreaties by his wife, a cancer survivor, former Intel chief Andy Grove and others close to him to have the small tumour removed because he did not want his body to be “violated”, Mr Isaacson told the CBS television show 60 Minutes.
After Jobs finally gave in, it may have been too late. Doctors discovered that the disease had spread to neighbouring tissue, Mr Isaacson said, and Jobs “regretted” his initial reluctance. The news programme posted an excerpt of its interview with Mr Isaacson on Thursday ahead of its full broadcast on Sunday night.
After Jobs accepted a traditional medical approach to his illness, he mastered it in detail and made the final decisions on all treatment, according to an account of the book in the New York Times. That included approving the sequencing of his own genes, which allowed for hand-tailored treatments, a pioneering approach that Jobs believed was key to the future of medicine. But not all that Jobs wrought, at Apple or in his personal life, was a success.