By Nook or by Crook

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Lyons

Microsoft seeks a toehold in the e-book market.

National notebook: Just last year, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble were locked in an ugly legal battle, with Microsoft claiming that the bookseller's Nook e-reader violated Microsoft software patents. Now the lawsuit has been dropped and the two companies are partners in a new joint venture. How's that for burying the hatchet? Microsoft president Andrew Lees says his company's engineers have been talking to Barnes & Noble about collaborating for a long time and kept doing so even as the lawyers were battling over patents. "It may sound like an all-or-nothing situation, but that's not how our relationships work at Microsoft," Lees says. It is, however, the way things work at other companies. Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs threatened to wage "thermonuclear war" against Google over the Android operating system, which Jobs believed was a knockoff of Apple's work, and which he vowed to spend his "last dying breath" trying to destroy.

Sure enough, Apple has launched numerous lawsuits against Android phone makers and so far has shown little interest in settling. Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle and a close friend of Jobs's, has filed his own lawsuit against Google over Android. In that case both sides have behaved so poorly that the judge has chided them for being "ridiculous" (Google) and "crazy" (Oracle). Apple, too, has been scolded for childish behavior by judges in its Android cases, most recently by legendary Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, who wrote, "I've had my fill of frivolous filings by Apple." Compared to these guys, Microsoft looks like the lone grown-up in a market filled with petulant children. …