Everyone saw a Windows Mobile-based Treo coming, and it arrived pretty much on time—just like Microsoft promised back in October. It doesn't come as a surprise to most that it will operate on Verizon Wireless' EV-DO network either. What really makes the news of the Treo intriguing is the fact that it arrives in the midst of RIM's second round of patent re-examinations. [on NTP's patents.]
On Dec. 30, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected [in NON-FINAL OFFICE ACTIONS] seven out of eight NTP patents. Apparently, I'm not the only one confused by the complexity of RIM's ongoing legal battle with NTP. Word is going around that BlackBerry users are starting to craft back-up plans in case the service is shut down in the U.S. Some are even calling RIM's competitors in search of other wireless E-mail-powered devices.
Just ask John Starkweather, a group product manager at Microsoft. In a recent interview, he told me: "Our phones are ringing off the hook form RIM customers who are looking for other options." Starkweather said that the RIM-NTP lawsuit is a major reason for the calls, but people are also looking to do "stuff beyond E-mail."
Unlike the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile (in the next version) will be able to push E-mail from the Microsoft Exchange Sever directly to mobile devices without going through additional middleware. Furthermore, besides Microsoft Office, there are close to 20,000 off-the-shelf mobile applications available on Windows Mobile that integrate with corporate PCs and servers, according to Microsoft.
In a separate interview, Forrester analyst Ellen Daley told me that Microsoft is going to be the winner among businesses. "The BlackBerry is not the choice environment for developing applications. If you want something beyond E-mail, you go to Windows Mobile. If you want free wireless E-mail, you go to Windows Mobile," she said.
Daley didn't think that many companies are turning in their BlackBerrys yet, but companies are making calls to other vendors—at least that what they've been telling Forrester.
It's a three-lane highway and RIM's competitors, more specifically Microsoft and Nokia, are catching up. Companies are finally reaching a good comfort level with mobile and wireless technology, adoption is booming, and devices are moving beyond E-mail toward applications. Microsoft picked a good time to come out with its operating system. But it's still quite hard to let go of the BlackBerry, since so many depend on its service.
IPBiz note: as a reminder, Eolas' claims were rejected TWICE in nonfinal office actions, but in the end survived. That may not happen here, but nothing final happens in a re-exam until appeals are exhausted. That is not ending anytime soon. If the injunction issues, RIM has run out of time.