An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news...
Microsoft Sued for Collecting Windows Phone Location Data
The only question I have is: How did anyone even notice this? I mean, according to the latest statistics, Windows Phone owns only 1 percent of the smartphone market. But that didn't stop one of the platform's only users from launching a lawsuit. That suit alleges that Windows Phone "siphons geographic location information from users and transmits their specific whereabouts to Microsoft's servers." More to the point, Windows Phone allegedly collects this data regardless of whether you OK the Use location? prompt the device provides to the user. In fact, the collection starts before the prompt even appears. Microsoft, of course, said four months ago that Windows Phone does not collect location data, so it's unclear what's really happening here. So far, Microsoft hasn't commented on the lawsuit.
Hubris Alert: Microsoft Claims Windows Phone Market Share Will Exceed Analysts' Expectations
You might recall that both IDC and Gartner earlier this year predicted that Windows Phone would blow past Apple's hyperific iPhone and establish itself as the number-two smartphone platform by 2015, behind only Android. You might also recall—since you just read it 30 seconds ago—that today Windows Phone accounts for just 1 percent of the smartphone market, making the IDC and Gartner claims, well, a bit suspicious. But Microsoft isn't just taking IDC and Gartner at their word, despite the copious evidence to the contrary. The company is expanding on that theory. Windows Phone marketing lead Achim Berg said this week that IDC's and Gartner's estimates for Windows Phone were "conservative," though I'm waiting every day to see those firms scale back their Windows Phone predictions. "We're now thinking that this year is a great time to get that momentum accelerated, to reach out to a broader group of customers," he added. Heads-up, big boy. It could only be a broader group of customers. There's no other direction for you to go.
Microsoft and VMware Circle Each Other Like Dinos in Jurassic Park III
With VMware's annual VMworld Conference now behind us and the dust finally starting to settle, it's time to quickly examine which of these companies offers the best virtualization platform. Yes, it's a moving target. VMware jumped out to an early lead, of course, with Microsoft not introducing its first hypervisor-based solution, Hyper-V, until 2008. But that release is built into the OS and, admit it, that gives Hyper-V some interesting advantages. VMware is no slouch, and its platform is more mature, more heterogeneous, and even more powerful for the largest of businesses, and is thus far more widely deployed. It's also more expensive—a point Microsoft keeps trying to make, in a sort of repeat of the "NT vs. UNIX" battles of a decade and a half ago. So. Which of these solutions will make more sense going forward? With both companies repositioning their products, wisely enough, as the basis for cloud computing platforms, I don't see a big change in the status quo happening anytime soon, though I expect Microsoft to make some interesting announcements around Windows Server "8" and Hyper-V 3.0 in about 10 days or so. As is always the case in this never-ending war, it's always the next volley that matters most. Stay tuned.
Google's Mini Antitrust Victory Could Have Repercussions in War with Microsoft
Speaking of companies that can't stand Microsoft, Google won a little antitrust victory in an Ohio state court this week. Which doesn't sound all that interesting until you discover that the case has implications for Microsoft. It goes like this: A company called MyTriggers.com filed a private antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the online giant of boycotting the firm in its search results. Here's the Microsoft connection: MyTriggers.com was represented by Microsoft's chief (external) antitrust counsel, Charles Rule. And Mr. Rule is also representing a handful of other tiny Internet companies that have shockingly similar complaints against Google. According to Google, these suits are simply proxy fights that Microsoft is staging in order to slyly gain access to the online giant's internal email and documentation. That's quite a charge. It's also in the public record: "Our competitors are scouring court dockets around the world looking for complaints against Google into which they can inject themselves, learn more about our business practices, and use that information to develop a broader antitrust complaint against us," Google told the Wall Street Journal last year. Yikes.
Microsoft Sues to Prevent Sales of Motorola Devices in the United States
Microsoft has petitioned the International Trade Commission to ban Motorola from selling its smartphones in the United States because they violate several Microsoft patents. Similar to lawsuits that Apple is foisting on Samsung here and abroad, the Microsoft suit pushes the 2011 patent battles from the theoretical to the practical, or at least from a "Cold War" stance to open warfare. Frankly, I'd like to see all the companies involved fight such suits. It's about time the validity of these patents was tested in court.
How HP Can Earn Back Its webOS Investment: Patents, Patents, Patents
So you've heard that Palm webOS is dead in the water and that parent company HP apparently just can't wait to shed itself of the stench of death surrounding this once-promising mobile platform. But hold on a second. Have we already forgotten the big mobile industry story of 2011? That's right: patents. And though webOS might never have taken off in the market, do remember that its maker, Palm, had been around since the beginning of the PDA days; in fact, it pretty much defined what those proto-smartphones were all about. And this is a company that invented, and holds, tons of mobile industry patents, patents that can be licensed, cross-licensed, and held over the heads of other companies like the weapons they are. If HP is looking for a way to earn back that $1.2 billion it wasted on the lifeless shells of Palm and webOS, that's the way to do it. And, perhaps not surprisingly, that's exactly what's happening. According to BYTE (or, the lifeless shell of what used to be BYTE, at least), HP is indeed quietly seeking licensees for its webOS patent portfolio. And it might already have one major taker in Samsung, which is of course engaged in a major, high-profile patent battle with industry darling Apple. And how much are these patents worth, you ask? According to a researcher from MDB Capital, about $1.4 billion. That's right. More than the price HP paid for Palm. Hm.
HP: Who Would Want Your Products Now?
Speaking of HP, I wrote previously about how the company's inability to communicate a simple strategy has likely doomed webOS as a mobile platform and wounded its PC business, perhaps irreparably. And now there are signs that both investors and customers are giving up on the company. A report in the Wall Street Journal notes that frightened investors have sent HP's stock reeling to a 20 percent loss since HP's ridiculously misguided announcements about webOS and its PC business. And now its biggest customers are thinking about jumping ship. "They're lost right now," one major HP customer told the periodical, and "several" others agreed that HP lacks a clear sense of direction. Not surprisingly, HP's biggest competitors—especially number-two player Dell—are racing to pick HP's carcass for whatever business they can, but the biggest benefactors of this ineptitude might end up being the smaller PC market players—Acer, ASUS, Samsung, and even Lenovo (which isn't really all that small)—because these companies can move more quickly and don't have tons of legacy business PC platforms they need to support for years on end. HP, meanwhile, is switching to damage control, which makes sense. But seriously, what kind of fool would buy HP hardware now? I mean, the very idea is ludicrous. (Irony alert: I ordered a ProLiant MicroServer from the HP website less than 24 hours ago.)
News Flash! Apple's iCloud Still Runs on Windows Azure, Amazon AWS
In an exclusive that would make Tom Warren proud, The Register this week "has learned" that Apple has selected Microsoft's Windows Azure and Amazon's AWS web services as the back ends for its forthcoming iCloud cloud computing platform. And I agree that this is indeed newsworthy. But then, it was newsworthy back in June, too, when I first wrote about it. Twice.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Back home this week, so I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Mary Jo via Skype as usual. But Leo was away this week, so Iyaz Akhtar co-hosted with us to great effect. The new episode should available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
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