Will Jobs’ death cause Samsung, Apple to reconcile?

The ongoing lawsuit battle between Samsung and Apple is expected to see an “unexpected turning point” as new Apple executive Tim Cook is seen to put priorities on operational roles, including manufacturing, distribution and sales.

Charismatic former Apple CEO Steve Jobs died just a day after the California-based Apple released its new iPhone 4S and hours after Samsung filed patent lawsuits in France and Italy to immediately ban the complete sale of the new handset.

In a rare condolence message, Samsung chief executive Choi Gee-sung said the company was more than saddened to hear of the death of Steve Jobs.

“Jobs led the entire technology industry’s revolutionary changes and he was truly a great entrepreneur. Jobs’ innovative thinking and great accomplishments will be remembered forever by people on this planet,” Choi said Thursday.

Attention is now focused on whether Jobs’ death and the complete take over by his successor Tim Cook will impact the widening legal battle between the two technology giants.

Samsung spokesman Lee Seung-jun said the condolence note by Choi doesn’t have any direct links to the patent row as it sided with Apple’s influential status within Samsung Electronics.

Apple is the biggest client for Samsung Electronics and may well buy 8 trillion won worth of components such as LCDs, memory chips and mobile application processors (APs) from Samsung by the year-end. The new iPhone 4S also uses Samsung-made the A5 mobile AP and NAND flash memories.

“Samsung’s official stance on Apple hasn’t changed. We will maintain our hard-line stance and announce updates if any,” said Lee.

Despite the hawkish stance, sources who are familiar with the matter told The Korea Times that Samsung’s legal team has already been in “emergency meetings” over the realignment of the firm’s patent strategies after the death of Jobs.

“It’s true that Samsung’s legal executives are in the process of looking into the renewal of a Samsung-Apple partnership. Whether to deal with the ongoing legal tussle is also one of the top issues,” said an Samsung source, asking not to be identified.

“It seems unlikely that Samsung will sign a patent agreement with Apple, however, it’s likely that Samsung will delay its plans of increasing the number of countries it will file complaints in,” added the Samsung executive, familiar with the matter.

Samsung earlier said it is planning to sue Apple in courts in other countries because it believes the iPhone 4S infringes on Samsung-owned telecom-related patents, thus claiming it’s illegal for Apple to sell the latest iPhone.

The lawsuits between the companies extend to 10 different countries and involve 20 cases, according to Samsung officials.

Samsung accused Apple of patent infringements in Australia back in September. The Korean firm is also appealing a German court’s ruling to ban the sale of its Galaxy Tab in Germany.

“It’s been expected that companies will see a comprehensive patent licensing agreement. Samsung is feeling the burden of continuously attacking Apple amid the death of Jobs,” said Kim Hyung-shik, an analyst at Taurus Investment.

The late Jobs sued Samsung by claiming that Samsung copied the design of Apple’s i-branded products.

Jobs was sensitive in design-related matters, according to industry sources, however, new Apple CEO Cook has mastered an expanding list of operational-related roles.

“Cook is more practical than Jobs and that’s why chances have risen that Apple will be more constructive in dealing with the ongoing patent fights,” said an industry executive in Seoul on the condition of anonymity.

Kwon Young-soo, chief executive of LG Display, said he was personally impressed by Cook’s openness and sincerity in caring for Apple’s parts suppliers and KT President Pyo Hyun-myung has also sided with Kwon saying, “Although Apple has bargaining power against us, the well-mannered Cook knows how to treat carriers.”

Steve Park, a local representative of Apple, declined to comment.

Apple has failed to wow consumers, waiting to see Apple’s all-new iPhone 5, as the iPhone 4S just upgraded some hardware-related specifications.

In a recent email interview with The Korea Times, a German-based specialist Florian Muller whose popular Foss Patents blog covers technology-related patents disputes said: “Apple is struggling to deliver breakthrough innovations. Instead, Apple now adopts some of the best ideas of third-party app developers, who are usually unaware of the need to file for patents early.”

Another Samsung source said: “Rather than spending time and money for patent fights with Samsung, Apple is being asked to inject its vigor to release sexier and more innovative consumer products. That’s why the post-Jobs era is receiving more attention, seeing Samsung possibly apply fine-tuned strategies in patents against Apple.”

“Cook will prove his management capability. It will feel a burden if Samsung further expands the patent fights,” added Kim from Taurus Investment.

Cook, who was Apple’s former chief operating officer (COO), has significantly helped Apple secure highly-advanced supply chain management (SCM) structures and has been known to have good contact with counter-partners of Apple’s overseas parts suppliers, according to the people who know him well.

Samsung is not the only local supplier of parts to Apple. LG Display sells its so-called “Retina Display” to Apple, while LG Innotek is the Apple supplier for camera-modules. LG Chem is providing its lithium-ion batteries for iPhones, according to officials from the companies.

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