Apple has filed a lawsuit against High Tech Computer (HTC) of China, one of several mobile phone makers that use Google's Android operating system, alleging copyright infringements in an increasingly litigious war between mobile phone makers.
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Apple has accused HTC of infringing some 20 patents related to the iPhone user interface and underlying technologies. It has also named Exeda, a Houston-based phone maker, in the suit.
Nokia earlier sued Apple and was counter-sued over alleged copyright infringements.
At stake is the booming market for applications that run on smartphones. According to market analyst Gartner, the market for mobile phones in 2009 was flat, but smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, up 23.8% on 2008.
"In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors such as Apple and Research in Motion (Rim) successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4% and 19.9% of the worldwide smartphone market, respectively," Gartner said.
But the two best performers in 2009 were Android and Apple, it said. Android grew its market share by 3.5% in 2009, while Apple's share rose by 6.2% from 2008, which helped it displace Microsoft Windows Mobile from the number three slot. But both still trail Symbian, formerly owned by Nokia, which has a 46.9% market share.
Gartner found earlier that Apple's App Store held 99% of the market for downloaded applications, most destined for iPhones.
As mobile network operators increase the bandwidth of their networks, phone users will use the extra space for more applications, such as video streaming. The operating system and applications that allow them to do that most simply and quickly are likely to have a competitive edge.
Apple is making sure its edge is honed by litigation.
Worldwide smartphone sales by operating system in 2009 (thousands of units):
|Company||Units 2009||Market share 2009||Units 2008||Market share 2008|
|Research In Motion||34,346.6||19.9%||23,149||16.6%|
|Microsoft Windows Mobile||15,027.6||8.7%||16,498.1||11.8%|
Source: Gartner (February 2010)