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Could Steve Jobs actually win his thermonuclear war?



Getty Images via Bloomberg Businessweek

FORTUNE -- Google (goog) made no public comment Friday after Judge Lucy Koh granted Apple (aapl) a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus -- a touchscreen cellphone whose hardware and software were jointly developed by Google and Samsung engineers.

It was the second ban on an Android-based Samsung device in a week (see here), and the first to strike directly at a Google-branded product. It came eight months after the Galaxy Nexus was unveiled at Google and Samsung's "Ice Cream Sandwich" event in Hong Kong and three days after Google gave 6,000 copies of the phone to attendees at its "Jelly Bean" developers conference in San Francisco.

Google wisely held its tongue, but its supporters were not so reticent. Sounding like a Fox News commentator after the Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling, BetaNews' Joe Wilcox let loose an angry tirade entitled Apple's injunction stopping Galaxy Nexus sales is shameful, an opinion echoed by a second BetaNews writer, Mihaita Bamburic, who declared Apple "a loser for winning."

Emotions are running high on both sides of the iOS/Android divide. Walter Isaacson reported in his Steve Jobs biography that Jobs was as angry as he'd ever seen him the day Apple filed its first patent infringement suit against an Android phone manufacturer. Google has "f***ing ripped off the iPhone," Jobs told Isaacson, promising to go "thermonuclear" to destroy Android.

Last week, when Judge Richard Posner dismissed "with prejudice" Apple's suit against Motorola over yet another Android phone, it looked as if Jobs' threats might have been empty. In retrospect, as FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller points out, Posners' decision was better for Apple than for Google. His ruling that preliminary injunctions can't be granted on so-called FRAND patents may have permanently disarmed the legal weapons both Samsung and Motorola Mobility (now part of Google) had hoped to deploy against Apple's patent arsenal.

Could Jobs actually win the war he's waging from the grave? Given how slowly the wheels of justice grind, the legal victories granted Apple so far have been against devices whose shelf life had nearly expired. But armed with this week's decisions, Apple may be tempted to request preliminary injunctions against newer products, such as Samsung's hot-selling Galaxy S III smartphone or the Nexus 7 tablet that Google unveiled this week.

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