Microsoft’s week offered a ton of hot legal action and the much-anticipated arrival of the Windows Phone “Mango” update.
First, the legal stuff: In another twist in its high-intensity campaign against botnets, Microsoft asked the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to order VeriSign to shut down some 21 Internet domains associated with the Kelihos botnet.
As far as botnets go, Kelihos is rather small: Microsoft estimates it has some 41,000 infected computers under its control. However, it also manages to send some 4 billion spam messages per day, many of them malware or spam-making it just as much a threat as a nuisance.
Microsoft filed the court order for the Kelihos takedown (which it terms “Operation b79”) on Sept. 22, the same day the company concluded its civil case against the Rustock botnet and handed information from that case over to the FBI. U.S. District Judge James L. Robart had given Microsoft the right to remove from circulation some 50,000 domain names and IP addresses used by Rustock to infect machines.
Even as Microsoft burned another botnet out of its hole, the company’s legal teams were working overtime on another project: finalizing an Android licensing agreement with Samsung.
Under the terms of that cross-licensing agreement, Samsung will pay Microsoft for royalties on its Android tablets and smartphones. Financial terms were not disclosed by either company, although Samsung indicated in a press release that it will also help develop and market Windows Phone devices.
Over the past several quarters, Microsoft has engaged in an aggressive license-or-lawsuit strategy with regard to Android manufacturers. Samsung is a particularly big deal, however, given its size and presence.
“The agreement also gives both companies greater patent coverage relating to each other’s technologies, and opens the door to a deeper partnership in the development of new phones for the Windows Phone platform,” Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s general counsel and deputy general counsel, respectively, wrote in a coauthored Sept. 28 posting on the Microsoft on the Issues Website. “Today’s agreement with Samsung means that the top two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired licenses to Microsoft’s patent portfolio.”
The other handset manufacturer is HTC. Motorola Mobility, another major manufacturer of Android devices, remains locked in a bitter courtroom dispute with Microsoft over alleged patent infringement-a case that could get much more complicated if and when Google completes its acquisition of the manufacturer.
According to one analyst, the Samsung deal has repercussions for the Android community at large.
“By taking a royalty-bearing license, Samsung recognizes that Android has intellectual property problems that must be resolved with license fees,” patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in a Sept. 28 posting on his blog, “and reduces to absurdity the idea that Google is going to be able to protect Android after the acquisition of Motorola Mobility.” Since Google announced that acquisition, he noted, Microsoft has signed three more Android manufacturers to licensing agreements.
Speaking of Google battles, the search-engine giant withdrew its lawsuit against the Department of Interior, after the latter decided to abandon plans to adopt Microsoft’s cloud-based email and collaboration platform without considering other vendors.
In 2009, the DOI selected Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite for its employees. Google then sued, arguing that the agency had signed with Microsoft without considering alternatives such as Google’s cloud services.
“We are pleased the case has been dismissed, and that the Department of Interior can proceed to obtain the secure email system it needs,” a Microsoft spokesperson said after the DOI announced its decision. “We are fully prepared to continue competing for the Department’s business and are confident that we offer the best cloud solutions and value.”
Google and Microsoft are fighting tooth and nail to sell their respective cloud productivity platforms to both businesses and governments.
On the consumer side of things, Microsoft’s most significant news of the week was the long-awaited rollout of its Windows Phone “Mango” update (also known as Windows Phone 7.5). Microsoft hopes that Mango’s hundreds of tweaks and new features will draw more attention from customers, and give its hardware partners-including Nokia-a stronger software platform to pair with their upcoming smartphones.
The new-and-improved features include multitasking, revamped Xbox Live and Office hubs, alphanumeric passwords, and syncing with Office 365. Windows Phones with Mango can also operate as WiFi hotspots for nearby devices, provided a carrier has enabled that feature.
A new report from research firm NPD Group’s Connected Intelligence Service suggests that some 44 percent of smartphone owners are considering the purchase of a Windows Phone device (that’s despite Windows Phone’s extremely small market share in smartphones). That being said, Microsoft also faces significant competition from the likes of Google Android and the Apple iPhone.
Microsoft began rolling out Mango to smartphones starting Sept. 27, but it could be several weeks before all devices receive the update.