Apple Verdict Could Boost Microsoft, RIM Smartphones - InformationWeek

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8/27/2012
08:49 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Apple Verdict Could Boost Microsoft, RIM Smartphones

Here's how Apple's courtroom win against Samsung might impact Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and RIM's BlackBerry 10.

Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
Apple iPhone 5 Vs. Samsung Galaxy S III: What We Know
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Apple's competitors have plenty of reason to worry in the wake of its victory against foe Samsung in court. By granting Apple such a strong victory with respect to its design and intellectual property complaints, Apple is now in a position of power.

But the verdict doesn't necessarily spell doom for everyone. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry 10 platform, in particular, might just see some benefit from the verdict. Here's why.

Microsoft licenses its smartphone platform to smartphone makers for a fee, who use it in their own hardware. So far, the number of smartphone makers that have chosen to license Windows Phone is minuscule compared to the number of hardware makers that have chosen Google's free-to-license-and-use Android platform. That might change.

Android hardware makers looking to diversify their product portfolios might decide to develop some non-Android devices to protect themselves. The best alternative for hardware makers at the moment is Windows Phone, despite the fact that it will cost money to license. Today's Android OEMs certainly aren't going to give up on Android, but even if a handful of new companies license Windows Phone, it'll help Microsoft. I'm thinking Huawei, ZTE, and maybe Pantech or Sony as potential Windows Phone licensees.

[ Mobile watchers prep for a busy month. See Apple, Motorola, Nokia Plan September Fireworks. ]

Even if new players don't join the Windows Phone team, existing players might ramp up their Windows Phone roadmaps. Companies such as Samsung, HTC, and LG have each fielded a dozen or more Android phones per year, while offering just one or two Windows Phones. Balance that ratio out a bit, and Microsoft benefits.

Further, wireless network operators worried of losing half their inventory may turn to their OEM partners and demand a wider array of devices. It's well-known that carriers are looking for alternatives to the Apple-Google duopoly when it comes to smartphone platforms.

Beyond the OEM and carrier game, enterprise customers might be turned off the whole thing and skip iPhone and Android deployments in favor of alternatives. Who wants to deploy a smartphone platform that could come under intellectual property fire and end up banned? Let's face it, the lawsuits don't look good for any of the involved players from a marketing perspective.

Enterprises that shy away from the iPhone and Android don't have much else to choose from beside Windows Phone and BlackBerry. At the moment, Microsoft, with its Windows 8, Surface tablet, and Windows Phone 8 strategy coming to a head in the next two months, appears to have its "stuff" together, if you know what I mean.

RIM could benefit, too, but not as substantially as Microsoft. Obviously, no one is buying BlackBerrys until BB10 and its associated products arrive. RIM is still months away from that debut, and businesses will have to make purchasing decisions between now and then.

Will things turn out this way? It'll take months to unfold. There's no doubt that the verdict--if upheld--will have a massive impact on the smartphone industry moving forward. Smart competitors would do well to push their agenda as hard as they can to find some way to benefit.

Mobile employees' data and apps need protecting. Here are 10 ways to get the job done. Also in the new, all-digital 10 Steps To E-Commerce Security special issue of Dark Reading: Mobile technology is forcing businesses to rethink the fundamentals of how their networks work. (Free registration required.)

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