Microsoft's Apple -App Store Suit Only Wastes Time: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-01-12 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Microsoft is suing Apple over its use of "App Store," claiming that the term is too generic to be worthy of a trademark. But is this really the best time to be distracted with that?

Microsoft is taking issue with Apple's claim that it should hold the exclusive rights to the term, "App Store." The software giant says that the term is too generic, and should not be employed exclusively by Apple. If the company is successful, it could pave the way for Microsoft or any other firm, for that matter, to use the term on its own.

Admittedly, Microsoft has a solid case. App Store is somewhat generic, and the use of "apps" in discussions on programs has been around long before the iPhone. But whether or not Microsoft can win its legal battle with Apple doesn't matter. The fact is, Microsoft has much better things to be worrying about than whether or not it can use "App Store" in its marketing materials. The company finds itself in a tenuous position in the mobile market. That is where it should be exerting the most effort.

Simply put, Microsoft's Apple complaint seems like a waste of time.

And here's why:

1. The terms aren't important

Let's face it: whether Apple's mobile marketplace is called "App Store" or anything else, it doesn't matter. A name for a store is just a name. The onus is on all the companies offering mobile app stores to deliver enough worthwhile programs to appeal to consumers and enterprise customers. Even if Microsoft wins its case and earns the right to use "App Store," it won't change how the market really operates.

2. It doesn't change the facts

Speaking of change, it's important to note that even if Microsoft wins in its legal battle with Apple, it can't affect the reality of the mobile-app market right now. Apple's store has over 300,000 available applications across a wide array of categories. Google's Android Market has around 200,000 programs. Microsoft's marketplace has 5,000 apps. Regardless of the name it chooses, Microsoft will be far behind for the foreseeable future. And it should be more concerned about that.

3. Microsoft should worry about smartphone adoption

Microsoft should also be worried about the adoption of Windows Phone 7 devices. The company revealed late last year that in its first six weeks of availability, Windows Phone 7 vendors shipped 1.5 million devices worldwide. That's a sobering number when one considers that as many as 300,000 Android devices reportedly are activated each day. Granted, Android has been around much longer than Windows Phone 7, but given the continued popularity of Google's platform, maybe it's time for Microsoft to care less about "App Store" and more about its position in the mobile market.

4. Apple doesn't care

Dealing with complaints from offended competitors is nothing new to Apple. The company has been weathering storms for years, and it fully expects to raise the ire of the competition. With that in mind, it's likely that Apple cares little about Microsoft's complaint. Sure, it might lose the ability to have "App Store" all to itself, but it won't affect its dominant position in the mobile-app marketplace.

5. The App Store will still be the "App Store"

Perhaps most importantly to Apple, a successful Microsoft won't change the iPhone maker's ability to use "App Store." It should only mean that the competition will have the right to use it, as well. Will that make Steve Jobs happy? Of course not, but he probably won't care all that much either. "App Store" is now synonymous with Apple's mobile marketplace. And even if Microsoft decides to switch the name of its store to Microsoft App Store, Apple will enjoy the preferred position in that space.

6. It might help Google

Microsoft is undoubtedly taking aim at "App Store" for its own gain. But by doing so, the company should realize that it could help Google, as well. After all, if Apple loses the exclusive right to "App Store," it can be used by any other company in the market. And Google might jump at the chance to do so just as quickly as Microsoft. There's no telling if it will happen, but there is a chance that Microsoft's complaint could backfire.

7. There are other battles to fight

It's rather odd that Microsoft chose to fight this battle with Apple, rather than focus its efforts on improving its standing online or in the mobile market as a whole. Microsoft finds itself in an extremely precarious position as Google continues to pelt it from all sides. It should be thinking about how it can take Google down a peg or two, not Apple. The iPhone maker is undoubtedly a competitor, but it's Google that will be most likely to dismantle Microsoft.

8. More distraction?

There is a very real possibility that Microsoft's complaint against Apple and "App Store" is yet another distraction that will eventually hurt the software giant. Over the past couple years, Microsoft has spent time focusing on areas-saying Vista would be a winner, immediately comes to mind-that it shouldn't. Rather than spend time delivering the top product for customers, Microsoft has justified its poor decisions, allowed Google to capitalize on mobile advertising, and made other mistakes that must make some question if all those efforts distracted Microsoft from doing what it needed to be successful.

9. It shows weakness

Microsoft shouldn't be the company that complains about the use of "App Store." Not only does it make the company look litigious (more on that in the next item), but it tells the corporate world and consumers that it feels weak against Apple's mobile onslaught. After all, Google had every opportunity to complain as well, but it didn't, indicating that it probably doesn't care all that much. But Microsoft obviously does. And that care is a sign of weakness that the company just can't show right now.

10. Litigious companies are taken to task

Microsoft is already one of the most disliked companies in the technology world. By getting into a legal battle with Apple, the company is likely only going to make itself look worse. As history has shown, companies that sue others too often are panned by consumers and enterprise customers. Legal battles simply look bad. They especially look bad against consumer-favorite Apple. Microsoft should have thought about that before getting embroiled in this latest effort.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel