Microsoft's week involved a complicated dance with a number of partners and competitors, including Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Nokia.
It proved to be a big week for Microsoft-not because of any product rollouts
or software updates, but because of its partners and rivals.
Or rather, make that partners that will become rivals.
March 9 Bloomberg report
detailed Hewlett-Packard's alleged plans to port
its recently acquired webOS operating system onto laptops and desktops, with CEO
Leo Apotheker quoted as saying the move will create a "massive platform."
HP computers will apparently run webOS alongside Windows.
HP inherited webOS when it purchased Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010. Although
Palm had limited the operating system's use to smartphones, HP evidently has a
much more sweeping plan: In addition to reviving and expanding on Palm's
original line of mobile devices, the manufacturer is planning a tablet and,
now, laptops and desktops that all leverage webOS.
Given HP's prime position as a Microsoft OEM, its embrace of a new operating
system spells potential trouble for Redmond
as it seeks to maintain the viability of its various business lines. Despite
Microsoft's aggressive push into new areas such as the cloud and consumer
smartphones, legacy products such as Windows continue to provide the bulk of
the company's revenue.
That being said, HP faces a long slog in making webOS a significant presence
in the OS market. According to the latest Net Applications data, market share
across all versions of the Windows franchise stands at 89.69 percent, followed
by Apple at 5.19 percent. In addition, Google plans on launching a Chrome OS
that will also compete for a piece of the market pie.
Whether HP can carve its own space from those competitors, its webOS
strategy is likely to antagonize Microsoft, at least according to some
"I have little doubt this further soured the relationship between HP
and Microsoft, who likely wasn't given any heads up on this and has undoubtedly
had to explain it to board members, financial analysts and a number of
customers by now," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group,
wrote in a March 10 e-mail to eWEEK. "HP remains Microsoft's biggest
seller of Windows PCs, and anything they can do to weaken the franchise-and
this does that on paper-is a problem for them."
HP's webOS plans for desktops and laptops supposedly go into effect in early
Outside of the traditional desktop and notebook market, Microsoft continues
to advance its strategy in smartphones, where it hopes to take a little market share
of its own from the Apple iPhone and Google Android. Earlier this week, reports
leaked that Nokia's agreement to use Windows Phone 7 as its primary smartphone
cost Microsoft roughly $1 billion
over five years.
In return, Nokia apparently plans on paying Microsoft a license fee for
every copy of Windows Phone 7 it installs on a smartphone. As detailed by Nokia's
publicly released Form
20-F 2010 report
, though, the partnership also carries substantial
"If we fail to finalize our partnership with Microsoft or the benefits
of that partnership do not materialize as expected, we will have limited our
options and more competitive alternatives may not be available to us in a
timely manner, if at all," reads one section of the report. "Our
expected transition to the Windows Phone platform may prove to be too long to
compete in the smartphone market longer term."
With those and other uncertainties in mind, Microsoft and Nokia are working
to put Windows Phone 7 devices on the market within the next few years. In the
meantime, Microsoft continues in its quest to encourage mobile developers to
create apps for the platform; this week, it adjusted its policies for those
developers, including a raised limit in the number of zero-fee certifications
that can be performed for free apps, from five to 100.
Microsoft is making other tweaks to its policies, including switching from
mandatory to an optional one that governed the inclusion of contact information
for app support. The company claims its Windows Phone 7 ecosystem has grown to
9,000 apps, with a base of 32,000 developers.
On the consumer side of the smartphone equation, Microsoft also announced
that its next major Windows Phone 7 update will be delayed until the second
half of March.
"After careful consultation with the team and our many partners, we've
decided to briefly hold the March update in order to ensure the update process
meets our standards and that of our customers," a Microsoft spokesperson
wrote in a March 10 e-mail to eWEEK. The update will include cut-and-paste
functionality, as well as faster app loading.
In February, Microsoft introduced a Windows Phone 7 update designed to help
future updates. Within a day of that update's rollout, however, a small portion
of users began complaining it stalled their smartphones. Microsoft employed
some hefty damage control (and some engineering fixes) to deal with the issue,
and seems extra-cautious about the next update proceeding as planned.
"I've decided to take some extra time to ensure the update process
meets our standards, your standards, and the standards of our partners,"
Eric Hautala, Microsoft's general manager of Customer Experience Engineering,
wrote in a March 10 posting on the Windows
. "This short pause should in no way impact the timing of
future updates, including the one announced recently at Mobile World Congress
featuring multitasking, a Twitter feature, and a new HTML5-friendly version of
Internet Explorer Mobile."
Speaking of smartphones, Microsoft decided on a rather unique legal argument
in its attempts to deny Apple the trademark to the term "app store."
Having filed a legal claim to deny Apple the trademark, Microsoft
is now arguing that Apple's counter-filing
-which claims Microsoft's
arguments and evidence failed-should be tossed out because the typeface is too
small and page count too high.
"Apple's response brief is 31 pages, including the table of contents
and table of authorities, and on information and brief, is printed in less than
11 point font," reads Microsoft's Motion
, filed March 8 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trial
and Appeal Board. "Under the rules, Apple's brief cannot exceed 25 pages
in its entirety, including the table of content and table of authorities, and
must be printed in at least 11 point font."
Apple will almost certainly file a new brief, meaning this particular battle
is far from over. Whatever the outcome, though, Microsoft can take heart in
having beaten Apple in at least one area: Kinect, its hands-free controller for
the Xbox 260, is now the world's fastest-selling consumer electronics device,
according to Guinness
-beating out both the iPhone and iPad.