Apple Inc’s decisive triumph over Samsung Electronics in the patent trial in years could open the door for Microsoft Corp to finally hop on board the mobile boom as manufacturers of Android-based smartphones and tablets weigh their legal risks.
Microsoft sounded a challenge to Apple and Samsung in July when it took the wraps off its Surface tablet, a showcase for the revamped Windows software that it hopes will pave the way for its entry into the mobile space.
It remains to be seen if the new cloud computing-ready Windows 8 can prove a serious rival to Android, the world’s most-used mobile software, or Apple’s iOS. But mobile industry executives who had been cautiously considering Windows as an alternative to Google’s Android say Friday’s ruling had intensified their interest in a Microsoft alternative.
The key reason: fear of patent lawsuits from Apple.
The California company’s battle with Samsung was in large measure a proxy war against Google’s Android, which is used by many manufacturers to run its mobile devices. The verdict could empower Apple to file more such lawsuits.
“Some of the other manufacturers of Android products like ourselves are prepared to face similar lawsuits from Apple,” a senior executive with a major Chinese mobile maker said on condition of anonymity.
“Even though the bulk of our shipments run on Android, the trend is to diversify into other products running on Windows,” the executive said, predicting that the percentage of Windows-based smartphone shipments would increase significantly, from less than 10 per cent now to around a third over the next few years. Windows 8 and Windows RT (a version of the software made for ARM Holdings chip designs that are employed in most phones and tablets) ship in October.
Some analysts are skeptical that Microsoft can produce a device that consumers will love.
“Microsoft has been the beneficiary of this whole fight as the other non-Android option,” said Ron Laurie, a Silicon Valley-based specialist in IP and investment banking and co-founder of Inflexion Point Strategy. “But safety (from lawsuits) by itself is not enough. You have to appeal to consumers.”
And so far the market has seen that consumers want phones and tablets that look like Apple’s devices, he added.
Hardware manufacturers, mostly based in East Asia and known in tech industry jargon as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs, are weighing their options.
“From an OEM perspective, the verdict alone, and certainly an injunction on sales of any kind, levels