Apple's patent victory: Is Microsoft the real winner?

Google hits a legal setback in the smartphone wars, creating a window of opportunity for the unpopular Windows Phone to finally step into the spotlight

The Nokia Lumia 900, which runs the Windows Phone operating system and its strangely overlapping tile icons, is apparently safe from Apple's army of patent lawyers.
(Image credit: Nokia)

Apple's strategy of waging a "thermonuclear war" against Google seems to be paying off. A jury this month ordered Samsung, which uses Google's Android operating system in its line of smartphones, to pay Apple $1 billion for copying the iPhone's design and features. Apple's legal victory over Samsung is seen as an indirect win over Google, since it means other smartphone companies are likely less likely to adopt Android over fears that they will be targeted by Apple's army of lawyers. However, Apple's victory has also created an opening for another player in the smartphone market: Microsoft. The software giant has tried to make an impression with its Windows Phone operating system, which is used by Nokia, but has made abysmal progress so far. With Android on the run, can Windows Phone make a breakthrough?

Yes. Microsoft is poised for success: Apple's patent victory could "ultimately lead to big market gains for Microsoft," says Preston Gralla at ComputerWorld. While Android's interface, with its static grid of applications, is nearly identical to Apple's iOS, the Windows Phone features "very large 'live' tiles" that overlap, effectively making Microsoft safe from Apple's "legal fire." What if Samsung starts using Windows Phone? That could happen, and "the smartphone operating system once left for dead could well become a serious contender."

"The big winner in Apple's patent victory over Samsung — Microsoft"

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But Windows Phone isn't perfect...: Microsoft's unique operating system will be spared from Apple's "upcoming crackdown on copycats, but it's been the company's distinctiveness that has been part of what held it back in the first place," says Anthony Shields at Minyanville. The interlocking tiles are bad for apps, and that's "Windows Phone's biggest problem." Still, imperfect as Windows Phone is, it may well "become more appealing to manufacturers looking for a safe haven."

"Exactly how Microsoft can take advantage of Apple's patent victory"

And Microsoft still needs to change consumers' minds: "Microsoft faces a classic chicken-and-egg problem," say Spencer E. Ante and Anton Troianovski at The Wall Street Journal. "The company is having a hard time winning over app developers because it lacks a large base of consumers," yet it's "struggling to win over customers in part because it is missing popular apps." In addition to improving its apps, Microsoft faces the much more difficult task of persuading consumers "they want what Microsoft is selling." And so far, customers just aren't buying it.

"Microsoft's mobile moment: Will consumers buy in?"

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