Samsung insists it will fight with all means possible any attempt made by Apple to block the sale of its tablets and smartphones in the U.S. market, writes Larry Walsh.
At the same time, Samsung is turning up the volume of its excitement over the prospects of selling mobile devices powered by Microsoft software.
The seeming shift in Samsung’s go-to-market strategy may be a sign of the unintended consequences of the myriad of lawsuits plaguing mobile device leaders.
Apple’s $1.1bn patent infringement lawsuit has opened the door for a potential court order barring Samsung from selling Galaxy smartphones and Tab and Note tablets in the U.S.
In the meantime, Google’s Motorola Mobility division is suing to block Apple’s sale of iPhones, again claiming patent infringement.
On the sidelines is Microsoft, which smartly licensed some patents from Apple as it geared up the fall launch of Windows 8, its first operating system designed specifically for touch-interface tablets.
At the same time, Microsoft is launching a new version of its smartphone platform, Windows Phone 8, which is also getting the attention of mobile manufacturers, including Samsung.
Prior to the trial verdict in the Apple case, Samsung announced it would release Windows 8 RT products as well as a smartphone running Windows Phone 8.
While the initial postmortem of the Apple case leaned toward Samsung getting a relatively free pass by paying into the Apple patent machine, the growing consensus is the patent case exposed much of Samsung’s $6bn mobile device sales to disruption through legal means.
For instance, the new Note II tablet/smartphone crossover and the new Note 10.1 tablet featuring multitasking are at risk of being barred as a result of the lawsuit. The legal troubles are only half the story.
While Samsung is arguably the most successful tablet challenger to Apple and is by far the market leader in smartphone sales, it still lags far behind the wild sales and profits generated by Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Other manufacturers, including Amazon.com, Lenovo, Acer, Panasonic and Motorola haven’t fared well either in generating widespread interests in Android-based tablets. The conventional wisdom is Samsung may shift more of its mobile strategy to Microsoft’s new operating systems to decrease its legal risk exposure and capture sales resulting from the launch excitement around Windows 8.
If Samsung moves in that direction, it could stimulate other manufacturers to place greater emphasis on Microsoft as the alternative mobile platform rather than continue to rely on Google’s Android. While Microsoft has a tarnished history in the mobile market, after Windows Phone 7 flopped and failing to react to the tablet trend earlier, it does have certain advantages over Google and Android.
Microsoft has better development tools, version control, support mechanisms and integration capabilities. This makes it more channel friendly and potential driver of much product, professional services and managed services. Microsoft is already betting a lot on the Windows 8 getting it into the mobile game.
The law of unintended consequences may play in Microsoft’s favor as Samsung and others seek save havens in their own going battle and struggles with Apple.
And while Microsoft still hasn’t clearly articulated its mobile strategy to the channel, solution providers and observers would be hard pressed to say Apple is a better channel friend.
Larry Walsh is founder of Channelnomics, a division of The 2112 Group.
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