Apple-Samsung: it's getting nasty

You might think technology was essentially a polite world of geeky people working hard to create cool things and the people who create the coolest things doing best. Oh, no, dear reader! It's all much more sordid than that and, as with all things where money is concerned, conflict and legal shenanigans are the order of the day.

Take this increasingly epic spat between Apple and Samsung. You might think that the relationship between these two would be one of rivalry: after all, Apple make the best-selling smartphone in the world, the iPhone, but Samsung are the world's biggest smartphone maker by total units with big-selling Android models like the Galaxy S and its sequel; the Galaxy Ace; and the new Galaxy R.

But it turns out these are much more than just rivals. They've been fighting tooth and nail in the courts for over a year, both accusing the other of nicking their designs and infringing their patents. Apple reckon Samsung's recent - and most successful - phones bear more than a certain similarity to the iPhone, and they say the same about the new Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad. And Samsung reckon Apple have infringed some longstanding patents of theirs.

Just to make things even more complicated, Apple is also Samsung's biggest customer! The iPhone's video processor is just one of the many parts Apple, which actually makes very little hardware itself, source from Samsung. The two's business relationship is reported to be worth $8 billion a year.

So these lawsuits are high-stakes stuff: and they look like they're about to step up a notch. Samsung have said they intend to be "more aggressive"in their pursuit of Apple, and have started the new approach by asking a Dutch court to block the iPhone and iPad from sale because they infringe Samsung's patents.

Now it seems Apple might be letting this legal dispute spoil the business relationship. According to the latest reports from the Far East, Apple is to reduce the amount of memory - one of the most lucrative parts of the relationship - it buys from Samsung, and buy more from other suppliers like Toshiba. Of course, they're not saying it's in retaliation for the Dutch lawsuit or anything else, but, come on.

Where will it all end? It would be bizarre if we ended up with a situation where Apple products were banned in half the world's markets and Samsung products in the other half. Hopefully the two will step back from the brink soon and make some sort of settlement, because as exciting as it is, the idea of two of the world's best tech companies wasting brains and resources fighting as opposed to making cooler stuff is pretty depressing.

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