Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Apple will win the battle but lose the war

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As Samsung moves aggressively to get an injunction lifted on the one device that was found not to infringe Apple's patents last week, it is good to remember that this is not a fight between Apple and Samsung.

No, this is a large-scale war between Apple and Android. One can't even limit it to Apple v Google, because the latter, by using the Linux kernel as the base for Android, has literally let the genie out of the bottle.

(Disclosure before I continue - I have been using an Android smartphone since April this year and an Android tablet for the last month. Both were bought with my own hard-earned money.)

As I have pointed out, Android is not exactly the kind of open source that would delight the purists. There are a mix of licences for various parts of the operating system, but because the Linux kernel is under the General Public Licence the source stays open to everyone.

Nobody can modify the kernel source and then distribute a  binary without being required to also provide the source. Thank Linus Torvalds for picking that licence and Richard Stallman for thinking it up.

More manufacturers than I can name have picked up the source, built their own proprietary interfaces atop it and started selling their own tablets or smartphones.

The chief executive of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, once described the GPL as viral and as a cancer. In some ways he is right - once the source is out there, every Tom, Dick and Harry (plus every Susan, Valerie and Mary) can pick it up and devise their own projects.

Programmers in every single country on the face of the earth can use that kernel source, build atop it and release their own mobile devices, be they tablets or smartphones. That scares the bejesus out of Apple and that is why it is trying to put as many obstacles to prevent Android spreading.

At the moment, this patent war appears to be all about the American market. But there are other markets which are as attractive - China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, the rest of the Asia-Pacific. Africa is more or less untouched. Apple wants these markets when they become ripe for the picking.

Let me digress a bit. The US has one big drawback - it is in the same situation that Greece was not so long ago. The only reason it does not have to declare bankruptcy is because there is no-one to push it to do so. Greece had the rest of its more wealthy European Union partners on its back. Uncle Sam just keeps printing more money and putting off the inevitable.

The crash, when it inevitably comes, will make the global financial crisis look like weak tea.

According to Peter Schiff, one of the few American financial experts who has his feet planted firmly in reality, national debt in the US in 2011 was $US15 trillion. All federal tax income for the year was $US2.2 trillion.

Paying down that debt is, thus, not achievable. Schiff, for those who aren't aware, predicted the GFC two years before it happened.

CONTINUED

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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