Windows 8 Rumors, Kin Death Marked Microsoft Week

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-07-04
 
 
 

Windows 8 Rumors, Kin Death Marked Microsoft Week


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.

In any case, Boies's hiring suggests the heavyweight nature of the looming case.

"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.

The Kins Demise


 

A Microsoft spokesperson indicated to eWEEK that there would probably be no official comment from the company regarding the veracity of the Windows 8 slides.

But if Windows 8-whatever its final name-represents a big part of Microsoft's future, this week also saw the company having to dump one of its recent products in the dustbin of history. On June 30, Microsoft abruptly discontinued its Kin line of social-networking-focused phones, which had been targeted exclusively at the teenager and young-adult demographic.

Introduced May 13, the Kin One and Kin Two featured hardware and applications tailored to deliver a constant stream of updates from the user's social networks. The devices allowed for seamless uploading of photos and other data to the cloud, but they also lacked games, Flash support for the browser, and the ability to download third-party applications.

"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned," reads a June 30 statement from Microsoft. "Additionally, we are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current Kin phones."

The Kin's demise may have relatively little effect on Microsoft's overall efforts in the mobile space. "I don't think the impact on Windows Phone 7 is all that meaningful," Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester, told eWEEK in a July 1 interview. "They were going to have three platforms running: Windows Mobile 6.5 to continue their focus in the enterprise, Phone 7 was going to be their primary focus and emphasis in the consumer market, and Kin was a separate platform."

Golvin added that the Kin's collateral damage to the Microsoft brand could be minimal. "Because they chose to brand Kin as a Windows phone, it's a question of how much of a foul taste will be left in people's mouths," he said. "But I think it's going to be relatively minor; mainstream consumers have a relatively short memory for this sort of thing."

A number of analysts believe the high cost of service plans was a major contributor to the Kin's death: ranging between $39.99 for 450 minutes to $69.99 for unlimited time, and paired with a monthly $29.99 for data, they may have proven too expensive for either cost-conscious parents or teenagers with limited independent income. According to unconfirmed rumors drifting around the Web, only 500 Kin phones have been sold since May. Microsoft's recent shakeup of its Entertainment and Devices Division may also have been partially responsible for Kin's death.

With Kin dead, Microsoft can focus solely on the Windows Phone 7 rollout. Seen by the company as a total reboot of its smartphone franchise, Windows Phone 7 condenses Web content and applications into a set of subject-specific "Hubs," such as "Games" or "Office."

"Microsoft did not do an adequate job of differentiating itself from the other vendors and defining Kin's value proposition," Jack Gold, principal analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in a July 1 email to eWEEK. "I think they now realize that Windows Phone 7 has to be a big success if they want to stay in the mobile game."

For anyone who collects dead tech, the Kin One and Kin Two are now available on Amazon.com for a penny... with a new service plan.

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