Microsoft did not have the best week, at least on the corporate front.
First came the appearance of an old enemy: in its patent-infringement lawsuit against Microsoft, Salesforce.com has retained David Boies, who represented the Justice Department in its historic antitrust lawsuit against the software giant, as counsel. That lawsuit can be seen as a response to Microsoft's own intellectual-property suit filed in May against the cloud-computing company.
Although Microsoft's subsequent relationship with the Justice Department has become far more nuanced, with Microsoft executives complaining to regulators about their rivals' business practices, chances are good that Boies is still roundly hated in certain corners of Redmond.
"The stakes are getting bigger and bigger," Ray Wang, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, said in a June 28 interview with eWEEK. "In the battle for the cloud, the two leaders are going to be Salesforce and Microsoft. Microsoft's Azure is the .NET side of the war, while Salesforce is the Java side. So you're going to have drama." Azure is Microsoft's cloud-based platform.
The battle is also likely to continue for some time to come, according to Wang.
"It's part of doing business here in the Valley," he said. "Litigation is part of the process as things get ultra-competitive. As the lines between enterprise and consumers blur, that means a huge volume of users, and that's the key here in many ways."
Salesforce is asking for unspecified damages, as well as a jury trial, in its suit filed June 24 in the Federal District Court for the District of Delaware. There are five patents at issue, which Salesforce alleges are violated by Windows Server AppFabric platform, the Windows Error Reporting system for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, SharePoint, the Windows Live Delegated Authentication system, and the .NET platform.
For its part, Microsoft indicated June 25 that it fully intends to continue with its own lawsuit against Salesforce, which alleges infringement of nine of its patents. "We remain confident in our position and will continue to press ahead with the complaint we initiated in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington," Microsoft Deputy Chief Counsel Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement.
The cloud will also be a big part of Windows 8, at least according to an alleged internal slide deck that leaked online this week, detailing Microsoft's discussions about the next-generation operating system.
On June 26, a Website called Microsoft Journal-which subsequently disappeared from its Windows Live Spaces host site-posted what it described as a leaked slide deck, dated April 2010, detailing internal discussions about Windows 8. Among the features apparently under consideration: ultra-fast booting, a "Microsoft Store" for downloading apps, fuller cloud integration, and the use of facial recognition for logins.
One slide also contained an image of a "Windows 8 Prototype Machine," which looks distinctly Apple-like with its minimalist curves. Another mentioned slates and tablet PCs as a preferred form-factor.
Other sites subsequently posted the material, including the blog Microsoft Kitchen, which posted the slides along with commentary; those blog's administrators said the information had come courtesy of an Italian Windows-enthusiast site called "Windowsette."
"Windows accounts could be connected to the cloud," reads one of the slides, which follows that up with another bullet-point: "Roaming settings and preferences associated with a user between PCs and devices." If the slides are indeed authentic, this indicates that Microsoft is developing the next version of Windows with not only an eye towards its "screens and a cloud" strategy, but also taking into account potential competition from upcoming cloud-based operating systems such as Google Chrome OS.