Thursday, 13 August 2009

The path never runs smooth for Microsoft

(By Philip Carnelley – Thursday 13th August 2009 9:30am). Yesterday illustrated how – and why – Microsoft fights as hard as ever on all competitive fronts. First, the Office business, its billion-dollar earning cash generator, was brought to an unexpected halt by a court judgement that it should cease selling Word 2003 and Word 2007 (and, therefore the Office suite). Back in May it was ruled that an XML-interpretation component in Word “wilfully violated” a patent owned by a small Toronto-based company, i4i. Microsoft has been fined $290m but has not yet settled – hence the court order. Perhaps it should! Of course Microsoft will appeal and/or offer an out-of-court settlement – it has 60 days before the judgement takes effect. We doubt that it will hold up the juggernaut for long.

On a related note, something that has been holding Microsoft up for a long time is its lack of success in the mobile applications space. Having competed rather fruitlessly with Nokia’s Symbian for years, the two are now combining forces, apparently on the basis that ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’, to take on Google, RIM and others. In a wide-ranging partnership announced yesterday, the two will cooperate on future developments across Symbian OS and Windows Mobile. This will include the development of a Symbian version of MS Office, including OneNote and access to SharePoint. This will substantially boost the attractiveness of Nokia smartphones to business users and shore up both Symbian and Office against attacks from the Blackberry, Google Apps and Android. It just might, however, be the death knell for Windows Mobile, which has never been good enough to leverage Microsoft’s strength on the desktop. But it is almost unimaginable that Microsoft would retreat from an operating systems war. Meantime, this won’t change the world but it makes perfect sense and will surely make a difference to their relative market positions. However – we wonder how two companies who have competed so fiercely in the past will get on together? They will probably be OK – “needs must.”

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