A Foolish Week of Telecom

Microsoft made the biggest tech world splash this week with its new wannabe iPad killers.

Take two tablets and call me in the morning
On Monday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced two of the company's Surface line of tablet computing devices. The tablets will run versions of the yet-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system.

According to Ballmer, the Surface is two things in one. "The Surface is a PC. And the Surface is a tablet. The Surface is something new," he said.

Hmmm. A PC? Competing with the companies that make the computers that run on the Windows operating system would certainly be something new for Microsoft. Wouldn't that be encroaching on Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and Dell territory? Deflecting the thrust of that question, a Dell spokesman told Dow Jones his company "remains a committed partner of Microsoft."

Mr. Disingenuous
Verizon
(NYSE: VZ  ) last week introduced its "Share Everything" plan. This unlimited voice and text plan, combined with data sharing for up to 10 devices, is missing one thing: For many customers it won't provide any cost savings. In fact, it will do the opposite.

So this week, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam decided to let the world in on what "Share Everything" is supposed to accomplish. "Customers have been telling us for years, 'I don't want to have a separate account for my iPad or for the four appliances in my house,'" he said at a Guggenheim Securities event.

"This, I think, dramatically changes how people feel about their devices. The usage moves around. They don't have to think about it. It just makes life so much easier for them." Easier, maybe, but: "Is it going to cost them more money? Yeah," McAdam freely admitted.

Gee, and I thought the main reason for having a shared data plan was to save money. Silly me.

Fe, Fi, Fo, FiOS
Speaking of increasing Verizon's revenue stream, the company has raised prices -- along with data speeds -- for its home Internet users. Considering that more and more customers are using their data pipelines for watching videos, Verizon has seen that as a good way to upsell its faster Internet offerings.

For $10 to $15 more a month, customers can get faster download speeds, as high as 300 Mbps for those willing to pay $200 a month. Comcast advertises speeds of only 105 Mbps for that price.

But as Barclays analyst James Ratcliffe noted, according to Dow Jones, speeds that high would be overkill for most users. High-definition streaming wouldn't need more than 25 to 30 Mbps, and Apple TV needs only a sustained 8Mbps.

Is Sprint slowing down on its LTE network?
Sprint Nextel
's (NYSE: S  ) push to get its 4G LTE network up and running could be losing some of its oomph, according to Jefferies & Co. analyst George Notter. He said construction of the network was expected to have started in the third quarter of 2011, but "vendors are seeing orders pushed" until the third quarter of this year.

The reasons, Notter wrote in a research report: "The Network Vision [Sprint's network upgrade plan] delays came as Project Management activities have been very complex. Operational challenges and technical issues have also been problematic."

It will be critical for Sprint to get its LTE network going as soon as it can. Verizon has just added 46 new markets to its LTE coverage, bringing total markets up to 304. AT&T (NYSE: T  ) is a distant second with 41 LTE markets.

Patent bullying?
Eastman Kodak
, with nothing much left to its storied name but its Kodachromes and its valuable collection of patents, is now suing Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to get that company to stop meddling in Kodak's efforts to sell off those patents.

Kodak claims in its lawsuit that Apple is trying to "delay and derail Kodak's [sale] efforts." Out of the more than 1,000 patents in Kodak's portfolio, Apple has claimed it owns 10. This has created "uncertainty as to ownership of the" patents, Kodak claims. That collection of patents is reported to be worth more than $2 billion, and Kodak needs the money to pay off its creditors.

In earlier filings, Kodak has said that Apple owes it more than $1 billion in damages for infringing on its digital-camera patents, and that Apple is using its claim of patent ownership to avoid paying up.

To complicate the matter further, Apple is also a potential buyer of Kodak's patent collection.

Talking trash
Apple may not go in for goading its competition, but Foxconn CEO Terry Gou certainly doesn't mind doing it. The China Times reported that Gou told shareholders at the company's annual meeting that consumers would be well advised to hold out for the iPhone 5 because it will put the Samsung "Galaxy S III to shame."

Oh, boy. Will that add to the global patent animus between Apple and Samsung?

The company that makes the processor running one of the new Microsoft Surface tablets is featured in The Motley Fool's report on "the next trillion-dollar revolution." It details a "hidden" component play inside mobile phones that is also a leader in the exploding Chinese market. Hundreds of thousands have requested access to previous reports. You can access this one now -- it's free.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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