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Mailbag: Will Microsoft Make It?, Class-Action No Big Deal, More

Readers share more of their predictions for how Microsoft -- and the tech sector in general -- will make it out of the economic downturn:

Microsoft will need to do some product innovation of its own in order to survive this time around. I don't think it'll be able to steal another "Windows" from Xerox.

For Microsoft, the future is clear. Windows 7 will replace XP Pro as the flagship Microsoft operating system. It is that good. Even so, its sales will fall short of desired market penetration. Microsoft's true hope for the future lies with a touch-based user interface for its Windows Mobile software and a new physical format that will replace smartphones and netbooks.

My prediction? Look for the next tech-business move to come from the past. Anyone remember Apple's Newton? That physical format, in landscape mode, supportd a virtual qwerty keyboard for speedy, touch-typing text input. In addition, it provided all the functionality of a Kindle, cell phone and workstation. Bonus: The larger, high-resolution screen means on-screen text can be larger (maybe I could even read it without my reading glasses), images display at the size of printed photos, and videos can be viewed without extreme eye strain. For end users, this is the ideal format size for tablet PC applications for hospitals, field inspectors, insurance adjusters and law enforcement officers. For Microsoft, the mini-pad format gives much-needed screen space for Windows Mobile. For Apple, it is the next logical evolution for the iPhone. Plus, Apple gets some vindication for part of its Newton product. The physical format was simply ahead of its time.

Speaking of being ahead of it's time, Trekkers will be quick to point out that this physical format, was predicted in the original "Star Trek" series.

The problem is deeper than you imagine. You say Microsoft will be fine, but I don't believe anyone will be fine in the foreseeable future. Most people, especially in business and politics, don't seem to get how deep and painful this one will be.

What Microsoft will do is the same thing other tech companies will do: survive. It will eventually come back to one degree or another, but the old days are gone for good. Fine? I don't think so.

After a judge ruled against giving the Vista Capable lawsuit against Microsoft class-action status, one reader wrote that it wouldn't have helped the plaintiffs much, anyway. Based on some personal experience, James agrees:

I have to agree with reader Earl about the class-action suit being a benefit only to the lawyers (of course, it probably wouldn't hurt Microsoft that much).

I bought a couple of iPods a few generations ago and got a postcard in the mail the other day. Somebody sued Apple because these particular iPods didn't have some kind of protection on them which allowed them to be scratched very easily. So if I fill out some form on a Web site, I can get either $15 or $25 back, depending on how badly they're scratched. OK, I guess I can fill out this form. Then the postcard went on to say that the total judgment is for $22 million. The lawyers get like $4 million for winning the suit and $200,000 to cover expenses. So who really wins on this one?

Meanwhile, Sharon doesn't think the suit against Microsoft over Vista-to-XP downgrade fees holds much water:

I don't understand why someone would think that you should be able to get past versions of an OS after buying the new version. I realize that for some products, Microsoft allows corporate clients with broad licensing agreements to downgrade for the same price. Never for an end user, though. Should I be able to buy a 2009 car and, when I decide I don't like one of the features, take it back to the dealer and tell them I want an '08?

Applying this to software: Have you ever heard of any software downgrade that didn't require you to buy the older version? The latest version of Photoshop is more complicated than the version I learned. Should I get an older one for free if I bought the new one?

And Ben offers his answer to a reader's question last week about why the EU doesn't pursue Apple over bundling Safari the same way it does Microsoft over IE:

The reason for this is quite simple. The problem is not just that the browser is shipped with the operating system, but that Internet Explorer is integrated into the operating system itself, giving it an unfair competitive advantage over other browsers. When working on Windows, you can pretty much ignore whether you are in Internet Explorer or Windows Explorer.

Safari does not function as the file system browser or integrate with Mac OS in the same way IE does with Windows. I think there is often confusion with the use of the word "bundled" in this situation, because it could be interpreted in different ways.

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Posted by Doug Barney on March 02, 2009