Why Apple’s win is probably Microsoft’s win

And how RIM may have missed the boat again


Photo: Chuck Nacke Time Life Contract Merlin-1151608

There was a ton of commentary over the weekend on what happens after Apple’s $1 billion win over Samsung, with the likeliest scenario being that the latter appeals. But should the verdict stand, the biggest effect will be on Android phones overall. Apple’s victory could send a temporary chill through the market, with all manufacturers – not just Samsung – giving second thoughts to their Android devices. After all, no one is going to risk releasing a device that has a good chance of getting them sued. Google may have to work some fundamental redesigns into its operating system to avoid this sort of thing happening again, while manufacturers themselves will have to make sure their actual designs are clearly distinct from Apple products.

The more likely scenario is that Android phone makers will have to pay Apple a license fee on the patents. Earlier this year, the company reportedly offered these manufacturers a deal that would have seen them paybetween $5 and $15 on each device. Given the big court win, such a fee could be expected to come in on the high end now. Some critics have said this is going to result in more expensive phones. While that’s true, adding $15 or so to the cost is not going to break anybody’s bank.

Of course, that’s assuming Apple is actually willing to license its technology. If Steve Jobs, who told his biographer in no uncertain terms that he wanted to destroy Android, were still alive, it would be a safe bet that no licensing deals would be offered. This is a company that has resisted licensing its Macintosh operating system for much of its existence, after all. If Jobs’ successors take the same approach, it could indeed be back to the drawing board for Google and its Android partners.

The verdict therefore means two possibilities: one is business as usual, with Android phones becoming a bit more expensive. The other is that Android suffers a major setback, which would mean a giant window opening for iPhone competitors.

In a case of perfect timing, Microsoft and Nokia are set to debut the new Windows Phone 8 next week (I’ll be covering the event live – be sure to follow me on Twitter). Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but the company is looking amazingly prescient right now. Just about every reviewer has mentioned how “different” Microsoft’s devices are from the other smartphones on the market. There’s certainly no mistaking a Windows Phone for an iPhone, which in the current legal environment is probably the best compliment Microsoft can get.

If Android does indeed get hamstrung by Apple’s patent win, Microsoft would be the obvious winner as wireless carriers desperately look for something else to sell. Research In Motion could also have benefited, but with new BlackBerry devices still months away, the company is likely to miss this big window of opportunity. Again.

Apple’s patent win could thus turn out to be really good news for Microsoft, which is all kinds of ironic.


Why Apple’s win is probably Microsoft’s win

  1. I see the irony, but Apple itself hasn’t really seen Microsoft as a competitor since 1997 or so. Of course, many of Apple’s customers haven’t seen it the same way. But the former might change if Microsoft does manage to make a significant dent in the mobile and/or tablet markets.

    It is nice to read a piece here about the ruling that isn’t as nutty as your colleague Jesse’s habitually highly partisan anti-Apple one. His Android evangelism is really over the top.

    • Are you saying Windows and OSX aren’t competitors? in my opinion, Windows is still far far superior. I don’t think ODX will ever catch up unless they drop prices.. even then I don’t use macs for their compatibility issues. BUT Microsoft is actually looking a little bright future with their Windows Phone 8 software, and Windows 8 Tablets.

      • I don’t think that the companies view themselves as competitors the same way they did in the 80’s or early to mid 90’s. That’s something that Steve Jobs himself said in ’97 (which is why I cite that year) when Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple, and it became even more true when Apple switched to Intel processors and made Bootcamp for installing Windows on Macs.

        I think Apple sees other hardware manufacturers as competitors, not software companies (Google is one notable exception). Apple doesn’t make significant revenue from software sales, so there’s no real reason to see Windows as a competitor anymore.

        I don’t think that Apple’s even concerned with a major portion of the hardware side of things either, namely the lower end, where margins are razor-thin. Why would they drop their prices to compete in that market?

        I also think that Apple is quite happy with how things are going for them with their PC marketshare where it is. They’re the most valuable company ever right now, and they’ve got billions in cash lying around.

        As to which OS is better, that comes down to needs and taste. If you make music like I do, then Apple is the obvious choice (Logic is amazing for sequencing and has wonderful software synths). I’m sure that Windows is the obvious choice for others (I have it installed on one Mac for gaming, which is the only use I have for it).

        As for compatibility issues, there are some very specific ones (i.e. games that are Windows only, though that’s less common now than 10 years ago), but pretty much everything else that I’m aware of is just fine compatibility-wise. Mac doesn’t have “compatibility issues”, I’m guessing that either you think Macs can’t do something that they actually can, or that you use specialized programs that aren’t made for OSX. There are very few of those these days.

  2. I’m amused by this. And many components of the Apple phones are manufactured by Samsung. If Samsung pulls its support for Apple… Karma could be a b!tch, here…

    • If Samsung pulls its support for Apple, that hurts Samsung first.. Apple has enough cash stored up it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to find other manufacturers of the same type of components.. but Samsung would be out a significant source of revenue.

Sign in to comment.