Microsoft Goes after with Patent Lawsuit

The saber isn't ratting anymore. It's out now, and it's pointed at one of Microsoft's biggest rivals in the cloud- and enterprise-computing markets.

Microsoft has long threatened rivals (think Linux) with patent lawsuits, but rarely has it actually made good on those threats. Only a handful of times has Microsoft sued anybody for patent infringement without Redmond being sued by the other company first. So, it seems likely that Microsoft is pretty confident in laying down the patent gauntlet in front of one of its mouthier rivals,

This week, Microsoft revealed that it is suing the CRM and cloud-computing superstar for alleged violation of nine patents. What the patents cover really isn't all that important for the purposes of this entry, except that Microsoft is attempting to force to stop offering the functionality that Microsoft says it patented.

What is important is what Microsoft is trying to do to, a close ally of Google and a major rival to Microsoft's Dynamics CRM Online offering in particular and to the Azure cloud platform in general. From our viewpoint, it looks as though Redmond is trying to cripple its smaller competitor -- to force into an expensive and possibly protracted legal battle and to plant seeds of doubt in the market about's technology. ( shares dipped Wednesday following news of the suit.)

It's very possible that Microsoft really did patent nine capabilities that is using now. We're not saying that there's no meat here. But, again, this is a lot more than just a patent lawsuit. It's a roundabout (and unorthodox) way of introducing Dynamics CRM Online -- now clearly the bell cow in Microsoft's enterprise-applications strategy -- to a broad audience. It's also a shot fired not just at but also at Google and Microsoft's other cloud rivals. The message: Microsoft is powerful. Microsoft has many ways to shape markets. Don't mess with Microsoft.

There's a message to customers and partners here, too. It says that Microsoft is serious about Dynamics, CRM and cloud-computing, and it insinuates that the company is innovative after all. Remember, Microsoft is claiming here that nicked technology that Microsoft invented. Who's the copycat now? We might find out in court -- which would be exciting, but we're guessing that a settlement of some sort is more likely. Still, stay tuned. It's not every day that Microsoft draws its patent sword.

What do you think about Microsoft finally pursuing a major patent lawsuit? What message does this suit send? Direct your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on May 20, 2010 at 11:56 AM3 comments

Google, VMware Team up to Launch Business Platform

Google is expanding its App Engine Web-apps platform to something called App Engine for Business. The most interesting part of this little piece of news is that Google has joined with VMware to create a platform in which developers can create applications in Java and then launch those apps on multiple cloud platforms -- not just on Google's cloud platform. Score one for multi-platform capability and a bit of openness here.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 20, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

HP Beats the Street

More of this, please. Microsoft buddy and technology bellwether HP rocked Wall Street this week with better-than-expected earnings and says that the best is yet to come.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Android Gaining on iPhone in Apps Battle

Is there an app (other than a DVR, we suppose) for turning off those "there's an app for that" iPhone ads? We'd be happy to never see another one again.

Oh, it's nothing against Apple or the iPhone itself. What we don't like is the way the ads make the iPhone seem like an absolutely indispensible element of modern life, when in truth a lot of what the overly happy voiceover characters in the ads are doing with their phones is also possible on a number of devices, including the simple laptop. Your editor struggles along daily without an iPhone and still manages to survive. We're sure that a lot of other folks do, too.

In fact, we know they do because the iPhone is hardly the only device in the smartphone market. The BlackBerry is still popular among traveling executives and corporate climbers who want to look important…and then there's Android, the Google mobile operating system, which is putting a scare into all of them. This week, a gaggle of venture capitalists -- people who have to spot the next trend before it even exists -- said that they see Android becoming an increasingly viable application-development environment, one that could challenge the iPhone in that category.

Taking down the iPhone -- there's an app for that, and it's running on Android, apparently. Which leaves our friends at Microsoft…where, exactly? Not out of the game, certainly, although Redmond has had a lot of trouble getting its mobile OS moving. The company's KIN social-networking phones have garnered some good reviews for what they are -- simple devices that are to a college student what crack is to…well, a crack addict, we guess. And then there's Windows Phone 7, the serious mobile OS effort in Redmond and one whose fate is still uncertain.

Know this, however. First of all, Microsoft is never, ever, ever out of a game it wants to be in. And it wants to be in the mobile game. Also, mobile computing is a wide-open field right now, with no single dominant player. That means that Microsoft can do some very healthy business and still be only third or fourth in the market. But we all know that Microsoft doesn't want to be a respectable third. That's not how Microsoft got to be Microsoft. It wants to win -- but it'll have some catching up to do, and it's staring at the back of more than just one arch-rival right now. Catching BlackBerry, Android and the iPhone -- so far, there's no app for that. It's up to Microsoft to create one.

What's your take on Windows Phone 7? Which mobile OS do you prefer? Have your say at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on May 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM7 comments

Windows 7 Satisfies Customers

In another positive sign that Vista is well and truly dead, customer satisfaction in Windows jumped recently on the back of Windows 7, the franchise player in Seattle that's actually delivering the goods.  

Posted by Lee Pender on May 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Cloud Computing Unsettling to Some IT Pros

So, partners, when you go into an IT shop and sell the convenience, low costs and easy maintenance of cloud computing, have you ever thought that you might be selling a bunch of the shop's IT staff into unemployment? That's what a lot of IT people think is happening, anyway. But our friends in IT shouldn't worry. They can prepare themselves for the cloud revolution. How? Well, they'll just have to click here to find out.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Google Building Momentum with Apps Partner Program

Google's reseller program for apps has more than 1000 partners, meaning the Microsoft rival has a teeny tiny fraction of the number of Office partners Microsoft has. But, hey, zero to 1000 in a little more than a year is pretty impressive, especially for a product that hardly costs anything.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Microsoft Seeks To Infiltrate SAP as Sapphire Begins

Microsoft makes mistakes with Dynamics -- yes, we're complaining about the four suites again -- but its strategy for siphoning off market share from other vendors is dead on. We saw another example of that this week.

As SAP opened its huge Sapphire conference (now apparently called "Sapphire Now" in all capital letters, although we just don't feel like writing it that way) this week, Microsoft distributed a sneaky little press release about a connector between Microsoft Dynamics AX and SAP Business Suite.

The new offering sounds innocuous, but it could actually be a powerful weapon for Microsoft in market share battles with SAP. The idea behind it is to let companies that have SAP installed at their headquarters-run AX at their branches, divisions and satellite offices; the new connector ties SAP and AX together, thereby (ideally) integrating the two ERP systems into one smooth-running operation.

Why is this move so shrewd on Redmond's part? For a couple of reasons: First, companies that have spent enormous sums of money to implement SAP as their corporate backbones aren't going to rip it out and replace it with Dynamics AX. They just can't. AX really isn't built for that kind of heavy-duty use, anyway.

But now, those firms can implement the cheaper, simpler AX at satellite locations and let workers get used to it. And when it comes time for an SAP customer to reevaluate ERP, maybe Dynamics makes its way into the picture based on the performance and simplicity of AX in the sticks.

Beyond that, Microsoft has always considered branch offices of big corporations -- along with SMBs, of course -- as a perfect target for Dynamics. Smaller operations with smaller budgets, even if they're part of a larger organization, will likely have a much easier time implementing AX and hooking it to the SAP implementation at the mother ship than they would trying to extend corporate's SAP system out to their locations. (Yes, SAP really is that complicated to deal with.)

So, not only does Microsoft infiltrate SAP's customer base, it also cuts off a flow of revenue to the German vendor. SAP has long made money (lots of it, actually) by feeding off of its own fat and selling back into its existing customer base. Microsoft can now siphon off some of that revenue and put the hurt on the ERP market leader. Smart thinking, indeed.

Meanwhile, SAP is making announcements about Business ByDesign as if nothing ever happened to the forlorn hosted offering. We have it on pretty good authority here from a solid source that SAP axed most of its Business ByDesign team and pretty much started over last year with the service, which had never really caught on with customers. (Actually, that little bit of info is probably public knowledge in ERP circles now.)

Now, for Sapphire, Business ByDesign is back, and SAP is treating it as if it had been around the whole time (which, technically, it has…but in reality it pretty much went away and came back). The "new release" of the service improves on…well, pretty much everything, because Business ByDesign had almost ceased to exist, anyway. It's essentially a reintroduction of the service itself.

To its credit, SAP is courting partners for Business ByDesign, something the hybrid-sales company hasn't always done. Perhaps it is trying to take advantage of some of the partner squeamishness over Microsoft's hosted enterprise offerings. SAP had better watch out, though, because Microsoft and Dynamics AX are slowly closing in on the German vendor's bread and butter. And Microsoft is ready to take a bite out of the ERP market.

What do you make of Microsoft's Dynamics strategy? Have you suffered an ERP implementation nightmare that would make you think about never using a vendor again? Send your thoughts to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on May 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM3 comments

Microsoft to Pay Up in VirnetX Patent Case

Another week, another loss (or settlement, anyway) in a patent case for Microsoft. This time, the price tag is $200 million, and Microsoft can make the check out to communications-security company VirnetX.  

Posted by Lee Pender on May 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Microsoft's Response Point Phone System Won't Respond

August 31 will be the last day for sales of Microsoft's Response Point phone system, which the company had aimed at small businesses. It had been dying for a while, but Microsoft is making the burial of Response Point official…and it's killing partner and product support for it at the end of August, too.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments

Verizon, Google Working on Tablet Computer

Great, another tablet computer is on the way. This one from Google and Verizon, apparently. We still don’t understand the fascination with tablets, but now that Apple has produced one, everybody has to have one, we suppose. Never mind that their usefulness seems limited and that they look utterly ridiculous…

Posted by Lee Pender on May 13, 2010 at 11:56 AM0 comments

HTC Tries to Stymie iPhone with Patent Suit

HTC is going the patent route to try to derail Apple's runaway train for all things "i. " The Taiwanese company is asking for an injunction on sales of iPhones, iPads and iPods based on an alleged patent infringement. Of course, it was Apple that sued HTC for patent infringement in the first place, so this is the rebel striking back against the empire. Good luck, HTC. You'll need it.

Posted by Lee Pender on May 13, 2010 at 11:56 AM2 comments