Microsoft's week, which involved settling its patent-infringement lawsuit with Salesforce.com and adding new features to Bing Maps, demonstrated yet again the company's continued focus on the cloud.
Microsoft enjoyed some positive news this week, at least on the legal front:
the company announced Aug. 4 that it had settled its patent-infringement cases
with Salesforce.com, heading off what promised to be a protracted legal battle.
"Salesforce.com will receive broad coverage under Microsoft's patent
portfolio for its products and services as well as its back-end server
infrastructure during the term," read
an Aug. 4 statement issued by Microsoft
. "Also as part of the agreement,
Microsoft receives coverage under Salesforce.com's patent portfolio for
Microsoft's products and services."
Microsoft initially filed suit against Salesforce in May, alleging
infringement of nine patents. Not to be outdone, Salesforce filed a lawsuit of
its own in June, accusing Microsoft of violating five patents. In a move
seemingly calculated to drive Redmond
executives' blood pressure through the roof, Salesforce also retained David
Boies-who originally represented the Justice Department in its landmark
antitrust suit against Microsoft-as counsel.
Despite those mutual accusations of intellectual-property violation,
Salesforce will be the one compensating Microsoft for patents, although neither
company disclosed the exact amount. Whatever the final monetary agreement,
though, it could very well prove less expensive for Salesforce than a courtroom
brawl; the sheer vitriol exhibited by both companies over the summer-Salesforce
CEO Marc Benioff, not exactly a shrinking violet of an executive, took the
opportunity of a May earnings call to refer to Microsoft as a collective of
"patent trolls" and "alley thugs"-led some pundits and analysts to believe a
true battle royale was in the making.
However, at least one analyst feels that Salesforce may have underestimated
its opponent's capacity for legal aggression.
"Salesforce both appeared to infringe in areas...where companies like
Microsoft are most sensitive to infringement, and then rubbed Microsoft's face
in it by effectively saying, -So what are you going to do about it?'" Rob
Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in an Aug. 5 email to
eWEEK. "They were apparently betting on some kind of massive Open Source
defense and didn't realize they were believing in the technology equivalent of
For Salesforce, the settlement's effects could be long-lasting.
"It means that Salesforce will likely have to change aspects of future
products so they don't infringe on critical areas," Enderle continued, "share
some of their profits with Microsoft, and go back to running their slightly
less profitable business. Microsoft gets some money (likely not material) and
enhances their reputation as a company not to be lightly messed with."
The settlement could also affect Microsoft's cloud prospects, at least when
it comes to dealing with other companies in the space.
"It should also improve Microsoft's chances of getting similar agreements from
others over time, which, collectively, is material to the company," Enderle
Even as Microsoft moved past its Salesforce conflict, it also continued to
distance itself from the sad legacy of Windows Vista: analysis firm Net
Applications reported this week that, according to its own estimates, the
market-share for Windows 7 passed that of Vista in July
Windows 7's market share that month reached 14.46, according to the firm,
passing Vista's 14.34 percent. That represents a
significant change from October 2009, the month of Windows 7's release, when Vista
ran on 18.83 percent of personal computers.
However, Net Applications also noted that "Windows XP is still the leading
operating system by far, with double the share of Vista
and 7 combined." Despite Microsoft pushing users of the decade-old Windows XP
to transition to Windows 7, a number of businesses and consumers seem equally
determined to stay with an operating system that, despite its somewhat aged
interface, is well-baked into their IT infrastructure.
Recognizing that, Microsoft announced in July that Windows XP Professional
users could keep their downgrade rights through the life cycle of Windows 7.
Previously, those rights had been scheduled to expire July 12, with the
availability of the Windows SP1 beta.
"Our business customers have told us that removing end-users downgrade
rights to Windows XP Professional could be confusing," Brandon LeBlanc, a
spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote July 12 on "The Windows Blog," "given the
rights change would be made for new PCs preinstalled with Windows 7 and
managing a hybrid environment with PCs that have different end-user rights
based on date of purchase would be challenging to track."
Net Applications also estimated July gains for Internet Explorer, which it
said now occupies 60.74 percent of the browser market-an increase from June's
60.32 percent. The firm estimated Firefox at 22.91 percent, followed by Chrome
with 7.16 percent, Safari with 5.09 percent, and Opera with 2.45 percent.
Whatever lies behind those gains, however, Microsoft
has also faced questions about Internet Explorer's priorities when it comes to
: a widely circulated Aug. 1 article in The Wall Street Journal
suggested that, when the Internet Explorer team wanted to design software that
counteracted common Web-tracking tools, Microsoft executives resisted the
initiative on the theory that it would impede their online-ad selling
That article quoted Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, as saying that the
company tried to combine those differing viewpoints into a single initiative
that balanced "the privacy interests of consumers and the critical role
advertising plays in content."
Microsoft responded to those privacy concerns in
an Aug. 1 posting on The Windows Internet Explorer Weblog
, insisting that
"browsing the Web is fundamentally an information exchange" and that "your Web
browser offers information in order to get information." But Microsoft's
opponents in the space may nonetheless try to leverage those concerns to
other Web initiatives this week included the integration of a handful of new
features into Bing Maps
, including a Taxi Fare Calculator and a World of
Football app that displays soccer scores from around the world and zooms into
stadiums. Whether Bing's more colorful and detailed maps, accessible only by
downloading the newest version of Silverlight, are enough to pull users from
Google Maps is an open question; but along with the Salesforce settlement this
week, it suggests that Microsoft is paying more attention to cloud-based
applications than ever.