Samsung’s loss is Microsoft’s gain

Rob Borley
on 07 November 2012

In the ongoing battle for the supremacy of the exploding smartphone and tablet device market Apple’s courtroom drama with Samsung over patent infringement has blown the landscape wide open. What has been advertised as a straight fight between Apple and Samsung is actually a little more complex than that. The role that Google’s Android mobile operating system has had to play in all this has far reaching implications for the industry.

Hardware companies writing software

Samsung are a hardware company. Apple are also a hardware company but they develop software too. Samsung have implemented an augmented version of Google’s Android to drive their devices and it’s this combination that was at the centre of the legal action. Samsung are not the only vender using an Android based system. The choice of operating systems for venders is limited. Apple tightly control their iOS system and so other, non apple devices are unable  to use it. Therefore Android or the emerging Windows Mobile platform (first 7 and now 8) are the only two options for everybody else. Android’s openness combined with Windows’ lateness to market has made this decision, up to now, a relatively straight forward one. Almost every hardware manufacturer is augmenting and deploying an Android based system.

Microsoft won Apple’s day in court

Apple’s day in court back in August has now cast doubt over almost all implementations of Android for all other venders. This was again highlighted earlier in November when Bloomberg reported that Android Jellybean 4.1 was to be added to Apple’s patent infringement case. The UI concepts used by Android have been proven to be very similar to that of iOS and so there is now a danger that all venders could be subject to Apple calling foul play. This leaves hardware providers with two options. Either, do what Amazon have done with their Fire tablets and customise the UI so that it is unrecognisable when compared to a default Android setup, or, change suppliers and use Windows. As Bill Cox, marketing director for Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division tweeted following the initial verdict: “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now.”

Microsoft made a very bold statement when they revealed their mobile UI. Unlike Android and newer versions of BlackBerry, it was very different from Apples offering. They deliberately departed from the standard set by Apple and that decision may be set to pay dividends.

Are Microsoft set to replace Google’s Android?

Most hardware venders do not write software. They want to leave it to the professionals. For them, Android is now a risk. It is a risk that Apple may aim at their latest new device and have it removed from the shelves at any given moment. Microsoft are now well placed to replace Android as the default alternative to Apple’s iOS because they are safe from this threat.

Samsung have been hit by their legal defeat. However, Microsoft may yet prove to be the biggest winners.


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