Windows Phone Update, Intune, Nook Lawsuit Defined Microsoft's Week
For starters, Microsoft's week saw the push-through of the long-awaited "NoDo" update for Windows Phone 7.
In addition to cut-and-paste, the NoDo update features tweaks to Messaging, WiFi and Outlook. It improves the "stability of switching between camera and video modes," according to information posted on Microsoft's Windows Phone Website, and the experience of syncing Facebook accounts.
But as to when NoDo will actually arrive on users' smartphones, Microsoft made a stab at an answer this week with a pair of charts detailing the update status for customers in both the United States and around the world. Each chart breaks down the update path into three categories:
Testing, i.e., the update is undergoing network and quality tests.
Scheduling, i.e., Microsoft is scheduling the update for delivery-a process the charts suggest will take "10 days or less."
Delivering, i.e., the smartphone should receive the update-at some point. "Because updates are typically delivered to customers in batches," the chart explains, "it might take several weeks before you receive notice that an update is available to you."
In the United States, the HTC Surround, LG Quantum and Samsung Focus are all apparently in "testing" for both the February software update (designed to pave the way for future updates) and the March "NoDo" update (which includes both cut-and-paste and feature tweaks). The Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7 are at the "scheduling" stage for both updates. The HTC Arrive comes with both updates, excluding it from the list.
On the worldwide chart, all open-market devices are "delivering" the March update, with the February update having already arrived for the majority of countries' smartphones. The bulk of those countries have also reached the "scheduling" milestone for their March update.
Microsoft's February update, designed to help with future updates, stalled a small number of users' smartphones and led to roughly two days worth of drama on Microsoft's online help forums. In the wake of that, Microsoft seemed more cautious in how it proceeded with NoDo, even pushing the release date back from the first two weeks of March to the latter half of the month.
"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. "As a result, we will plan to begin delivering the update in the latter half of March."
It seems a bit of an open question, though, when Windows Phone 7 users in the United States will actually see their NoDo update pushed through.
Speaking of pushing things through, this week marked the release of another Microsoft product: Windows Intune, a cloud-based platform that gives IT administrators for midsize businesses an enterprise-style level of control over their network.
Microsoft is bundling Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights with Intune, the better to increase the business presence of Windows 7. Overall, the service costs $11 per PC per month, with a minimum subscription term of one year.
"Windows Intune builds on our history of delivering cloud services at scale, including Hotmail and Windows Update, and leverages Microsoft's cloud experience with Azure, Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365," Gavriella Schuster, a general manager at Microsoft, wrote in a Feb. 28 posting on The Windows Blog.
For much of the past year, Microsoft has used its conferences and other events to push a particular vision of cloud IT services for corporations, placing it in direct competition with Google and Salesforce.com. That comes despite the fact that much of the company's revenue continues to derive from traditional streams such as Windows and Office.
Based on a Web survey he conducted for Microsoft to judge Intune's uptake among its possible customer base, Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay concluded in a Forbes blog posting March 23 that "uptake at $11 would be limited." In addition, the company is trying to "bill for values, like encryption management, not yet clear to the target market."
He added: "Microsoft still has to answer some pointed questions raised by respondents if it hopes for widespread adoption ... For example, the fallback plan during loss of connectivity, whether delivered through partners or directly, must assure potential subscribers." Kay's posting neglects to mention his survey's sample size.
Within a day of Kay's posting, Microsoft e-mailed to eWEEK a list of curated customer quotes about Intune's supposed cost-efficiencies.
If all that wasn't enough on Microsoft's collective plate (although given the company's size, having action on multiple fronts is sort of par for the course), the company decided to fire a broadside at rival Google's Android platform on March 21, filing a legal action against bookseller Barnes & Noble and manufacturers Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec. Apparently, Barnes & Noble's Android-based Nook e-reader violates Microsoft's patents for interacting with documents and e-books.
"Companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing, wrote in a March 21 statement. "To facilitate that, we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers."
Because Barnes & Noble and its partners apparently refused to participate in this program, Microsoft has decided to bring out its heavy legal artillery. "Their refusals to take licenses," Gutierrez added, "leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations."
Microsoft has fired intellectual property lawsuits over Android before, generally at smartphone manufacturers. The Barnes & Noble action is unique in that it centers on an e-reader device.
Android, of course, competes with Windows Phone 7, which-even if it yet hasn't allowed Microsoft to challenge Google's and Apple's supremacy in the mobile market-is certainly responsible for a large portion of the company's weekly news feed.