I have a tendency to write about things as I come across them, and I wandered past a few interesting stories on Ars Technicathis morning. Without further ado let's get to the stories.
Steve Jobs was an Angry, Angry Man
Apparently Jobs threatened Palm with patent litigation over their poaching of employees from Apple. Super surprising that Apple is threatening patent litigation right? Although it may not actually be surprising that Apple is doing is this, it is surprising that a court document was unsealed and an affidavit from Palm's former CEO Edward Colligan released as an example of just how underhanded, and similar to blackmail these threats are. According to Ars Technica the document originated from a lawsuit between former employees of "companies like Apple, Google, and Intel" and their respective employers' no-poaching agreements.
According to Colligan, who worked at Palm in various positions including CEO from October of 2003 until June of 2009, during his tenure at Palm "Apple, Inc. ('Apple') hired Palm employees, including high tech employees, and Palm hired Apple employees, including high tech employees.[sic]" This isn't a particularly surprising revelation, as many people switch companies on a regular basis, and actual employee poaching is extremely hard to prove. As I understand it, simply offering people who work at a competing company a job does not qualify as poaching as some form of incentive must also be provided as enticement. Don't quote me on that though. This also establishes that Apple was also hiring from Palm.
Colligan then says that he received a call from Steve Jobs himself in August of 2007. "On the call, Mr. Jobs expressed concern about employees being hired away from Apple by Palm. As a solution, Mr Jobs proposed an arrangement between Palm and Apple by which neither company would hire the other's employees, including high tech employees. Mr. Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple's many patents.[sic]" If this seems slightly paranoid coming from a company that doesn't actually make anything outside of cosmetic components for its products then you're a sane human being. While it's perfectly reasonable for Jobs to be concerned about exodus from his company, especially of highly qualified individuals, it's worth noting that Jobs' proposal suggests that neither company hire any employee, of any level, from one another under any circumstance. Considering Apple likely doesn't have any trouble attracting talented people without solicitation that offer sounds less one sided than it actually is.
Colligan's response can be summarized fairly well by one sentence in particular: "Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other's employees, regardless of the individual's desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal.[sic]" Colligan's response also includes some interesting insider statistics, "Palm doesn't target other companies - we look for the best people we can find. I'd hope the same could be said about Apples practices. However, during the last year or so, as Apple geared up to compete with Palm in the phone space, Apple hired at least 2% of Palm's workforce. To put it in perspective, had Palm done the same, we'd have hired 300 folks from Apple. Instead, to my knowledge, we've hired just three." I was unfortunately unable to find any records of how many people Palm employed for the purpose of comparison before they were acquired by HP and dissolved.
Jobs' response reads like a bully who has just failed to intimidate their mark, and I will reproduce it verbatim below.
This is not satisfactory to Apple.
It is not just a matter of our employees deciding they want to join Palm. They are being actively recruited using knowledge supplied by Jon Rubenstein and Fred Anderson, with Jon personally participating in the recruiting process. We must do whatever we can to stop this. I'm sure you realize the asymmetry in the resources of our respective companies when you say: "We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money."
Just for the record, when Siemens sold their handset business to BenQ they didn't sell them their essential patents but rather just gave them a license. The patents they did sell to BenQ are not that great. We looked at them ourselves when they were for sale. I guess you guys felt differently and bought them. We are not concerned about them at all. My advice is to take a look at our patent portfolio before you make a final decision here.
According to Ars, the US DoJ filed an anti-trust lawsuit against multiple companies and forced them to dissolve their agreements, and employees of the companies later filed their own civil lawsuit. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been ordered to give a deposition on the issue. It would appear that the intense fascination with Jobs continues to accelerate the process of outing all his, and Apple's, dirty laundry.
Google Continues Expansion
The first news up from the Google-verse is confirmation of their previously suggested stance on Google Fiber, with both Larry Page and Patrick Pichette making it clear that they plan to make Google Fiber into something more than a "hobby". I've already posted on the site about Time Warner and other ISPs having their heads buried in the sand regarding GF, and contrary to the suggestion that faster internet isn't in demand the poll paired with the LA Times' online version of the story shows a staggering 97% saying that "super-fast internet" is "absolutely" a priority for them. It's fair to note, however, that the LA Times' article does not display a view count for the page or any indication of how many people have participated in the poll so far.
The next bit of info seems to suggest that Google is looking to dip into the mobile market as a carrier. According to Ars Technica, Google has requested that the FCC keep secret information about tests of a wireless network at their Mountain View headquarters that operates using frequencies normally reserved for mobile broadband. It would make sense for Google to want to move into being the service provider for its own technology. This could also simply be them working towards expanding connectivity, and subsequently their overall business as more people use the web. While I'm more than a little wary of Google, them giving a trio of stagnant industries - TV, internet, and mobile - a kick in the pants sounds just fine to me.