Can You Ever Fully Trust a Business Relationship?

It seems like lately I see more and more examples of business partnerships that end up with one party ripping off or screwing the other. This is probably because I recently read the Steve Jobs biography and everyone in the computer industry has traditionally copied Apple whenever they create new trends. Here are a few examples…

  • Microsoft Rips Off Apple: Apple created the Macintosh graphical user interface and Microsoft was the #1 creator of software for the platform, but in the end they ended up creating Windows which pretty blatantly copied the Macintosh.
  • Apple Screws Microsoft: In the late 90’s Apple made a deal with Microsoft to include Internet Explorer with all new Mac’s only to create the Safari browser a few years later.
  • Apple Steals Ideas from Microsoft: At a dinner, a Microsoft employee talks about their idea to create a low-cost tablet computer. Steve Jobs gets wind of it and beats them to the punch with the iPad.
  • Google Uses Inside Information to Steal from Apple: While on the board at Apple, Google CEO Eric Schmid oversaw the creation of the Android operating system which has competed directly with Apple’s IOS in both the smartphone and tablet markets for several years now.

And there are obviously a ton of examples that don’t involve Apple…

  • Google Alienates Content Suppliers: With their Panda update earlier this year, Google penalized a lot of sites that were creating (arguably) some of the most useful content on the web.
  • Facebook Steals from Everyone: Almost every feature on Facebook has been stolen from other sites… By my calculation they’ve stolen directly from Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, and many others.
  • Twitter Steals from App Developers: The entire framework of Twitter is built around features that were built originally by 3rd party app developers. Some of these companies have been acquired by Twitter while others have just plain gotten screwed.
So, if the big names in tech routinely steal from smaller companies and each other, is it possible to trust 100% in your business relationships? How wary should we be about working with other companies? Is there any hope of both companies benefiting and no one getting hurt?