posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Oct 2010 14:25 UTC
IconWith the release of Windows Phone 7 upon us, the hype machine now goes all the way up to 11. While hype machines are generally relatively harmless and easy to poke a hole through, coordinated FUD campaigns by patent trolls are not. After Apple and Microsoft trolled HTC, and Microsoft now trolling Motorola, the actual FUD campaign against Android is in full swing.

Windows Phone 7 has to succeed. Come hell or high water.

I wouldn't be surprised if Ballmer's position at Microsoft depends on Windows Phone 7's success. While Windows and Office continue to do well, Microsoft's other endeavours haven't been as successful; Windows Phone 7 should be the sign that Microsoft can still innovate and come up with something new that will enter a market, and grab a significant share.

Except, Android is in the way. Windows Phone 7 must appeal to the same OEMs currently selling Android devices, and in order to get them to even consider Microsoft's latest mobile offering, Redmond will have to convince them it's worth paying Microsoft for something they can get for free from Google.

There's two ways you can do this. One, Microsoft could offer such a compelling package with Windows Phone 7 that OEMs will line up to pay license fees to ship Windows Phone 7 devices, market them, and support them, all over the world. This is how competition works, and is the preferred way for consumers such as ourselves, since it would mean we get better products.

If that method fails - or you believe it will fail - you can always resort to what I call the rogue tactics. You can spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the competing platform - in this case, Android - by holding secret negotiations, speaking of patents nobody has ever seen, forbidding companies from ever revealing those supposed patents, and suing any company that flips you the bird (Motorola, you go girl).

Now that you spread the fear into everyone that your competitor is actually not free at all because of the patent deals you mafia'd OEMs into and the lawsuits you started against those that refuse to pay protection money sign such patent deals, you can then send your employees and executives on the warpath, instructing them to enlighten the world about how your competitor is not free at all.

And so we arrive at an interview in The Wall Street Journal with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO. The interview was held in honour of Windows Phone 7's upcoming launch, so of course Ballmer addressed Android's perceived free-ness by claiming it's not free at all - with the proof being the patent deals his company signed with HTC.

"Android has a patent fee," Ballmer told the WSJ, "It's not like Android's free. You do have to license patents. HTC's signed a license with us and you're going to see license fees clearly for Android as well as for Windows."

And now you have planted the seeds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of the people making the decisions at OEMs. You have them where you want them. Google claims Android is free, but here you have that kind of huge company from Redmond claiming this isn't the case... And they have their own mobile offering we could use... And coincidentally, their patent agreement deal is just a little bit more expensive than their Windows Phone 7 OEM deal... Mmm.

As usual in technology media, the real questions weren't asked by The Wall Street Journal (too afraid to lose exclusives). Which patents, Mr Ballmer? What do they cover? Can you give us the patents' numbers? How many are there? Are they software or hardware patents? When do they expire? Why aren't you suing Google? Is it coincidental that Apple, a company you're very friendly with, is pretty much employing the same tactics you are?

Windows Phone 7 has to succeed. Come hell or high water.

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