Will Apple Come to Regret Its Win Over Samsung?

From taps to form factor and color, Apple says it has it all patented and, at least for now, the courts agree. Now what the Street has to figure out is what, if anything, Apple’s triumph is really worth.

Breakout co-host Matt Nesto says the only thing the verdict really proves is that Apple had the better lawyers. As far as my partner is concerned, by the time all is said and done, the i-Everything maker will come to regret the victory. “Nobody likes a monopoly,” says Nesto, predicting a consumer backlash. The verdict may slow Samsung’s and adoption of Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system but it’s only going to spur innovation; forcing developers to create real alternatives to the iPhone rather than simply aping Apple features.

Nesto’s right about spurring innovation. The problem is the R&D isn’t going to be spent on pushing the envelope on smartphones but rather creating workarounds that don’t violate Apple’s expansive patent set. Apple now has a patent on the way you zoom in and out of images on your phone. Android developers may figure out a better way to “pinch” your screen but it’s not likely to be a feature customers will flock to as an alternative to the old system.

Apple has had a monopoly on cool things for ages. By some estimates iTunes has over 80% market share for individual songs sold. iPads make up 70% of the tablet market. If there’s a digital music player that isn’t an iPod you have to work hard to find it. Having 1/5 of the smartphone market while competing with every other phone maker on earth is incredible but it’s the lowest share Apple has of anything that isn’t a computer.

Apple’s win against Samsung doesn’t make the company a monopolist; it simply throws a barrier between the iPhone and the Android wanna-bes. Apple didn’t win the war on Friday but it won a significant battle. There’s slightly more space between Apple and “The Rest” in terms of the look and feel of a smartphone that customers want. For a company as good as Apple a little space is all they need.

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