Ex-Sun CEO dishes dirt: Steve Jobs as Apple "patent troll"

Jonathan Schwartz, the ponytailed, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems, is now blogging all the things he wished he could have said earlier. Yikes; in his first missive, he lays into Steve Jobs, comparing him to a patent troll, and offers lessons for HTC in their defense against Apple's iPhone IP lawyers. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the iPopcorn and enjoy the iMovie.

By Richi Jennings. March 10, 2010.


Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Godzilla Haiku...     Jonathan Schwartz recalls a 2003 phone call:

Steve Jobs threatened to sue me, too. ... After I unveiled ... Project Looking Glass, Steve called my office to let me know the graphical effects were “stepping all over Apple’s IP. ... I’ll just sue you.” ... My response was simple. “Steve, I was just watching your last presentation, and Keynote looks identical to Concurrence” ... a presentation product ... which Sun acquired in 1996. ... Steve had used Concurrence for years ... it was obvious where [Apple] found inspiration. “And ... MacOS is now built on Unix. I think Sun has a few OS patents, too.” ... And that was the last I heard on the topic.


As in life, bluster and threat are commonplace in business. ... I understand the value of patents. ... There’s no defense like an obvious offense. ... Suing a competitor typically makes them more relevant, not less. Developers I know aren’t getting less interested in Google’s Android platform, they’re getting more interested – Apple’s actions are enhancing that interest.

Prince McLean would be the (slightly slanted) background king:

Apple's current patent lawsuit is ... being taken against HTC ... [which] makes most of the other significant Android phones on the market ... both under its own brand and cobranded with other companies.


It is an open secret that Apple based elements of its ... iWork apps on a series of productivity apps created by Lighthouse Design for Jobs' original NeXT Computer. Schwartz was a cofounder of Lighthouse. ... The Lighthouse apps were "the Office suite" for NeXT, and were a personal favorite of Jobs. ... However, when Sun bought Lighthouse in the mid 1990s, it locked up the company's suite of apps and threw away the key, abandoning all new development.

The anonymous Electronista gnomes add balance:

Apple has ... an aggressive legal team. ... The company's most recent legal action was filed against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 patents relating to technology used on the iPhone.


[And it's] not been free of criticism over intellectual property and copyright issues. Delicious Monster developers noticed an uncanny resemblance between their Delicious Library software and iBooks, an app developed by Apple for the iPad. Several other Delicious developers were previously hired by Apple to work on various projects.

Fake Steve Jobs denies everything:

Jonathan Schwartz has lots of free time on his hands since ... the Oracle takeover. So ... he’s now going to tell us all the stuff he couldn’t tell us when he was CEO of Sun. ... Can you really trust the word of an admitted liar? Of course not. But anyway I’m sure some people will accept as fact Jonathan’s made-up story about me calling him and threatening to sue Sun.


I have no recollection of this conversation with Jonathan. ... But hey, it’s a great story. And I’m sure people will bring it up when they’re discussing our lawsuit against HTC, and they’ll try to paint us as a bunch of bad guys in suits who go around ... bullying smaller rivals. A child could tell you that’s not true, just by looking at our ads. ... Listen to that happy music. See the happy, smiling people. That’s who we are.


So shut the **** up, Jonathan Schwartz, or ... I will sue your skinny ass.

And Larry Dignan gets his dig in:

What can we learn from Schwartz? A few lessons:

  • If you have patents you have an arsenal to discourage claims and lawsuits. ...
  • You have to be prepared with some bluster of your own.
  • You can’t be bullied by larger players.
Now it’s quite possible that Android will get developers to rally around it. But the Sun analogy falls a bit flat. Sun lost relevance a little bit at a time—intellectual property portfolio be damned.

But Jesus Diaz saves the day: [You're fired -Ed.]

Schwartz put Steve in his place. ... [He was] probably foaming at the mouth, and wanting to send Luca Brasi to get Jonathan brand new cement shoes.


I bet Jobs realized the stupidity of his call, realizing that Sun had a very strong IP portfolio, and plenty of ammo to fight Apple back. Something that HTC—or Google, for that matter—, when it comes to phones, don't have.

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

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