OFF THE GRID

Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch: Let’s Sue the Internet

Mar 3, 10 | 7:49 AM   byMichael Wolff
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So Apple is suing HTC, the premier manufacturer of Android-based phones, including Google’s Nexus One. And Rupert Murdoch is suing Google—or so he says.

It’s the suing phase, when the tough guys lose their cool.

We’ve been here before.

At the peak of its creative powers, Apple sued Microsoft, claiming that Windows was a Mac rip-off, which it was. The suit became Apple’s raison d'etre, tied up the company’s psychic energy and hopes and dreams for years, and sorely inhibited its creative powers. And then it lost.

It’s a Steve thing. Not just a temper tantrum. But an operatic one. It’s Steve Jobs’ signature: pride and paranoia. Behind it, too, is the motivation of all great competitors—they really don’t want to compete, they want the market for themselves. Now it’s Google, rather than Microsoft, copying him. It’s Google’s phone he’s out to get. He’s pissed off: Google controls the Internet and all he controls is his rotten phone.

A lawsuit is, quite literally, a form of protectionism—of wanting the law to give you an advantage that the market isn’t giving you. So, curiously, I would read Apple’s gambit as a sign of frustration with the iPhone. In spite of the sense we all have that it’s taken over the world, Apple’s margins are apparently not large enough to sustain a competitive onslaught. If they were, Apple would not have bothered suing, which has its own huge costs—in resources, image, time, and in the doubts it sows among investors.

Murdoch, too, prefers muscle to the market. Mostly, he doesn’t sue; he just bullies. The Murdoch strategy is to be as frightening as possible. He’s a jaw boner. A growler. A fist pounder. He wants to suggest that he is a little less rational than everybody else, a little more primal, a little more extreme. In this, he is a better businessman than Steve. Murdoch doesn’t really believe he can positively impact his business with an epic and defining lawsuit. (Also, his lawyers have not, traditionally, been the best.)

And yet, maybe this has changed.

He seems truly upset. He’s the wounded party. Google is indexing his articles! Phumpher phumper. He’s become the moral party, too—a conceit that, believe me, he has never been prone to before. If Murdoch ever had any charm it was his lack of righteousness. But now he’s a believer—a believer with hurt feelings. If he sues Google, it will be for the worst possible reason for a suit: because he feels helpless.

Both of these guys need some therapy.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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