Apple patent victory boosts Microsoft as Asian vendors scramble

Sat Aug 25, 2012 10:44pm EDT
 
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By Lee Chyen Yee and Bill Rigby

HONG KONG/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Apple Inc's decisive triumph over Samsung Electronics in the most closely watched 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 touchscreen-friendly and 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 that Samsung had copied Apple's designs and software features 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 Inc's Android software, 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 told Reuters on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

"The Apple-Samsung lawsuit has given us some reference point on our future innovation. We'll focus on developing our own unique user interface based on the Android platform.

"Even though the bulk of our shipments run on Android, the trend is to diversify into other products running on Windows," the executive added, predicting that the percentage of Windows-based smartphone shipments would increase significantly, from less than 10 percent now to around a third over the next few years.   Continued...

 
The logo of Apple is seen on a product displayed at a store in Seoul August 24, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won