The real winner in Samsung vs. Apple: Microsoft?

The real winner in Samsung vs. Apple: Microsoft?

Summary: Could Microsoft be the real victor in Apple's patent win over Samsung?


Watching the tweets roll in while the Apple vs. Samsung patent verdict was read aloud in court on August 24, I saw a number of tech watchers proclaim the victor in the case to be Microsoft as much as Apple.

Huh? Didn't a jury in the case just suggest Samsung owes Apple $1.05 billion in total damages for infringing on a variety of Apple utility and design patents?

Yes, they did. But some of the Windows Phone faithful -- and even some of the doubters -- are speculating today's decision could lead Samsung and other Android phone makers to leap into Microsoft's arms as the only safe and viable alternative out there.

Here's the quick and dirty background: A nine-person jury has been hearing testimony for close to a month in court battle between Apple and Samsung over patents for smartphones and tablets. Apple sued Samsung first over patents last April, and Samsung countersued two months later. The trial covered both of those cases wrapped up into one, as CNET's Josh Lowensohn explained during CNET's live blog today.

(Heck, even Microsoft hater and CrunchFund partner MG Siegler said "Windows Phone just got a huge boost today." So it MUST be true.)


Other amusing and thought-provoking tweets from various members of the court-watching peanut gallery:



Microsoft has cemented a number of patent-licensing agreements with Android phone makers -- including Samsung -- to date. But it hasn't managed, so far, at least, to convince many of these phone vendors to go whole-hog with Windows Phone. 

My only observation on all this, since I haven't followed the Apple vs. Samsung proceedings in anything but the most cursory way, is that Microsoft often advances when its competitors fail. Exhibit A: Xbox vs. Sony PlayStation. In a number of cases, Microsoft's marketshare in a given space has grown not because of anything the Softies did proactively, but because of its rivals' missteps.

Might Windows Phone be another example of this? Thoughts?

Topics: Patents, Microsoft, Smartphones, Tablets


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • In a way, I guess I have to agree.

    I guess I would have to agree. You don't see Nokia, or any of the Windows Phones and Samsung made in this suit. Not to mention that Microsoft is dictating that skinning can't take place on Windows Phone, which would deter any notion that Microsoft, or any aforementioned OEM, is trying to copy Apple.

    I doubt we will see any uptick in Windows Phone devices from Samsung LG or HTC, but I think as this case grows bigger and Google gets involved, it could definitely happen.

    My reaction is here:
    • With regard to the mobile phone market I think that you......

      ......are right. Any up-tick for Windows Phone will depend crucially on what Nokia do with WP8. However, what Apple may have "achieved" with regard to the tablet market is give Redmond a far better start than they might otherwise have had. There will be, in all likelihood, significantly less of a "war on two fronts" for Windows on tablets than would otherwise have been the case. In general the OEMs have not done as well with Android tablets as they have with Android phones and the result of this court case may very well be that they put even more effort into Windows tablets than they would have done anyway.
      • If I can't have an Apple phone, give me a Windows phone instead

        I've owned three Android phones and am no fan at all... though I currently use one. Though I prefer iOS, my phone carrier doesn't offer that option so I have to go with the best they offer. If this suit throws Windows mobile into my carrier's offerings, I wouldn't cry. It just might give me a better option than what I have been getting.

        Remember, this is not only a case of one OS against another. It's basically, "what does your carrier offer and make available to me... at the best possible price!"
        • Why not switch carriers?

          If your current carrier doesn't have the phone(s) you want, why not switch to a carrier that does?
          • Choice isn't just about the phone

            -- Carrier A has the phone you want, but you pay 2 arms & a leg for the plan that meets your needs;
            -- Carrier B has the best deal on the plan you want, but their selection of phones is "less than ideal" for what you want/need

            In this case, you have to decide which is more important: the phone (with all of the "cool" apps & gadgets that you want to have), or the plan (which is what lets you [b]use[/b] those apps without taking out a loan for your monthly bill).

            Or, you pick Carrier C: a carrier that has a plan that's affordable enough & meets your needs (even if not as cheaply as Carrier B's), but also has a wider selection of smartphones (including the ones that Carrier A has).

            You can also go with Option D (none of the above), and remember that smartphones are a nice & handy tool to have, but that they aren't a necessity in life. Rather than being a menace while driving, you could use your desktop or laptop to look up movie times/restaurant menus/directions to a particular location before you even leave your home/office...or better yet, have a friend/spouse/significant other look them up for you while they're waiting for you to pick them up. Hmm, now there's a thought: [b]pre-planning[/b] before you even go out the door to do an activity...
          • RE: Choice isn't just about the phone

            " now there's a thought: [b]pre-planning[/b] before you even go out the door to do an activity..."

            What is this "pre-planning" you speak of? Type slowly, I was indoctrinated in a government (puppet I might add) funded public school.
          • What if...

            ...The end user doesn't pay the bill? Then one is stuck (unless you spend out of pocket for service) with what the payer uses uses as the carrier. In my case I chose a Windows Phone when it first came out and regretted it at first but after Mango and I figured out how to use it. Now I'm a happy camper but still have some important features Mango doesn't do like linking to my desktop Outlook without going through hoops with the "Live" thing.

            I think if more people would familiarize themselves with the Windows Phone they would choose it over the fruit and bot versions of smart phones. Planning on going with the MS Surface when it comes out but have been getting along with a cheap Asus with Android while I wait. I'm not into games on a phone or tablet and the MS Market offerings have more than I'll ever need.

            Whatever makes MS phone more marketable is great for us MS Phone users because even better Marketplace apps will show up.
        • You will change your mind

          If you are used to an Android, try using an iphone

          You will quickly change your tune, especially if you work in IT, where people learn to become anti apple
    • they didn't sue android, they sued the largest competitor

      you didn't see HTC in this suit either, the problem wasn't so much Android as it was Samsung's design department having the temerity to make a rectangular-shaped phone!

      If Samsung had put WP7 on the same form-factor Galaxy, Apple might well have sued anyway. The only thing stopping Apple from suing Windows Phone manufacturers is that they don't see it (rightly) as any kind of competitor. If WP does become a lot stronger, then this kind of lawsuit will follow.
      • Apple vs. Google

        I think this Samsung suit is just the precursor to Apple vs. Google. Apple could see everything Oracle did wrong vs. Google and Android and then toss in its own patents. In either case, developers have a verdict to chew on.
        Larry Dignan
        • Is that too limiting?

          Is this a fore-runner of Apple vs. Google or Apple vs. The Mobile Smartphone Market?

          If you take the UI issues out, the hardware aspects could lead down the road to any full screen smartphone.

          Likely? Ask me last week and I would have said no. With this latest round in the USA and the differences we are seeing internationally, I just don't know.
          • It'll be Apple vs Google

            And what Apple will do is go after what Google blatantly copied from iOS, which is pretty much the look and feel. Google will countersue and go after what Apple copied from Android, or at least what's in Android that Google patented. Apple will also give the courts a timeline of Android development, including where Google bought the old Android Inc, pictures of development mules that look more like Blackberrys than iPhones, and then finally the G1 and original Nexus designs.

            Get your popcorn makers ready.
          • Well...

            The G1 was a blatent rip-off from Palm, not Apple. The buttons along the bottom, the screen shape and size, that's basically a Palm T|X with a slide-out keyboard. It's also questionable to introduce development prototypes (not that Apple wouldn't)... having a device for code development is in no way a suggestion that the original Android company, or Google, ever intended to release such a device. Or that Google, for that matter, originally intended to release any device.
        • Google is already suing Apple

          "According to TechCrunch's Frederick Lardinois, the patents in question involve location reminders, e-mail notifications, video playback and Siri, and were deemed serious enough to demand an import ban against nearly every iOS product Apple makes."

          The best I can hope for from this mess is a series of court decisions that will greatly reduce the scope of frivolous patents. This 1998 "story" from The Onion is not far off the mark:,599/
      • Do you make things up?

        "as it was Samsung's design department having the temerity to make a rectangular-shaped phone!"

        You missed the And... And... And... And... And... And... And... And...

        part of the design patents. All of the "ands" have to be satisfied and there was much more than just a rectangular phone. The problem is Samsung willfully copied each point and even had a design review on how well they did and then went back and fixed the areas they copied poorly.
        • Deja Vu

          Yeah, and I'm sure Apple's NEVER done anything like that to any other company before. 'Cept maybe Xerox when they blatantly reverse-engineered their proprietary GUI system and came out with the Lisa and Mac.
          • RE: Deja Vu

            "...they blatantly reverse-engineered their proprietary GUI system..."

            I thought Xerox let them pretty much walk out the door with the source code.
          • Apple bought rights, not steal. Thank you for trying to change history

            In 1979, Steve Jobs made a deal with Xerox's venture capital division: He would let them invest $1 million in exchange for a look at the technology they were working on. Jobs and the others saw the commercial potential of the WIMP (Window, Icon, Menu, and Pointing device) system and redirected development of the Apple Lisa to incorporate these technologies. Jobs is quoted as saying, "They just had no idea what they had." In 1980, Jobs invited several key PARC researchers to join his company so that they could fully develop and implement their ideas.

            HERE IS THE KICKER:
            In the mid 1980s, Apple considered buying Xerox; however, a deal was never reached. Apple instead bought rights to the Alto GUI and adapted it into to a more affordable personal computer, aimed towards the business and education markets. The Apple Macintosh was released in 1984, and was the first personal computer to popularize the GUI and mouse amongst the public.

          • Right...the Mac GUI is NOT stolen


            Thanks for posting the truth. The continuing myth that Apple "stole" the Mac GUI from Xerox PARC persists only because it satiates the desperate need of Apple haters to justify their hatred. I have noted that Microsoft haters are just as irrational in their willingness to believe the worst (whether it's true or not), and ignore the best.

            The truth is that both Apple and Microsoft provide great benefits to those who find their products valuable. It is equally true that both have committed reprehensible acts. Blanket condemnations that assert the moral superiority of one over the other are useless, and in any case such assertions don’t change the facts, which lies can’t change.

            In the end, you can only choose for yourself those products that best serve your needs, regardless of who makes them.
      • Cross licensing

        I think you might be off on this one. Microsoft and Apple have a very deep cross licensing agreement that prevents this type of situation. There is still a clause that notes they cannot copy each other's products. In general you can see that wp7/8 & the surface do not really look at all like iOS.
        Now from a mathematical point of view:
        You can make android and pay a license to microsoft (10-12 bucks a pop maybe even more) and then have apple go thermonuclear on you. can pay microsoft a 20-30 bucks a unit and have an os that is "shielded from Apple", protected by microsoft ip and is unique enough that it does not trample on anyone's foot.
        Microsoft wins because Google took too long to protect the oems who left microsoft for Android. They saw the potential of a "free os" and jumped ship. Since Google did not monetize android, it never really cared enough to protect the product or it's quality. Let's not forget that the motorola and ibm patent purchases are recent events. There should have been some sort of patent protection from version 1.0 of the product.
        Apple and microsoft have long rivalry that is storied but they have, over time, come to respect each other begrudgingly and admit that each of them has merits in their particular arena.