Microsoft suits target Android phones

Microsoft Corp. said Friday it has filed patent-infringement lawsuits with the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola Inc., targeting Motorola mobile phones based on Google Inc.’s Android software

via Microsoft suits target Android phones – MarketWatch.

This follows infringement suits by Apple against HTC targeting Android and by Nokia against Apple targeting GSM patents (with obligatory counter-suits, of course.)

There was a time when Motorola was a key design win for Microsoft and their Windows Mobile in 2003 with the MPx series. In fact, Motorola still ships Windows Mobile devices like the ES400 and FR68. These are for industrial applications but there were many mainstream Motorola Windows Mobile volume products. The most famous perhaps was the MOTO Q in 2006.

I’m sure part of the value pitch for Windows Phone is indemnification from IP infringement. Windows Phone will be the only licensed OS that offers this coverage and it’s a non-trivial selling point.

  • famousringo

    Hm, a suit like this might help MS strongarm manufacturers into licensing their phones, but I don’t think it’ll do much to build trust and loyalty.

    Maybe I’m just naive to think that trust and loyalty have any place in a business partnership.

    • Vik

      Microsoft has 3 strategies

      1. PC makers that have mobile devices (Samsung, LG etc…) they influence by using their PC OS licensing – either play ball in mobile or we jack up PC OS licenses or reduce your competitor’s cost base

      2. a) Non-PC Mobile manufacturers they sue if they don’t play ball -eg: Motorola
      2. b) PC + Mobile manufacturers that don’t play ball: They sue – eg HTC

      I predict that all or most of the Android manufacturers switch or mostly switch to Microsoft who will use a combination of strongarm tactics and free or low-cost OS’s (like they used in the Netbook space to get rid of Linux).

      After all, why would Samsung, HTC etc… care whether they get an Android or MSFT mobile OS if it is basically free and basically comparable to each other? They just want an OS for their phones that is “good enough” as a comparison to iPhone.

      They aren’t vested in the OS because they never created it. So Microsoft has that advantage against Android.

      • Marcos El Malo

        Your point 2.b) suggests MS might sue HTC. HTC already has a license agreement with MS that presumably indemnifies them (from MS at least!). This would suggest that MS doesn't care if their stream is coming from OS revenue or IP revenue.

      • Vik

        I only meant to say that they threaten players like HTC with a lawsuit to make them comply to using WP7 or pay – either way diminish Android's value to them. In this case, they threatened HTC with a suit and forced HTC to pay up.

        I actually don't think that MSFT cares that much about license fees – they will only get some $10 or so per handset. They would have to sell hundreds of millions of licenses for it to even start being worth their while as a real business line for them, but Microsoft does understand that losing the mobile war opens them up into potential trouble on the desktop. It's mostly about market share at this stage for them.

        Contrast that with Apple who actually makes money on the handset and is less focused on marketshare than being profitable – but is also on top with iOS because they have better products.

  • Stu

    The bigger question is why is MS doing this?

    Are they merely in it for the money – trying to force Motorola (and others) to license the tech? Or are they trying to slow down Android by putting fear into the other developers of Android based devices? Are they going to sue other devlopers?
    Short term gain vs long term gain?

    I don’t think they’re trying to do both, because they’d lose royalties if they’re trying to stop Android. And they’ll lose market & mindshare if they just go for trying to delay Android a bit (horse out of the barn).

    My bet is that they’re more interested in the licensing fees than trying to stop Android.

    • famousringo

      I don't buy that. MS is always in it for market control. MS performs miserably in almost every market where they don't have a monopoly position. First it seizes control by whatever means necessary, then it collects as much rent as it can without losing its stranglehold.

      I just don't think this kind of bullying will pay off for MS when there are so many alternatives to WinPho7. Even if they force fees out of Motorola et al., I would think the handset manufacturers would start actively trying to escape Microsoft's clutches.

    • kevin

      MS has already licensed its IP to HTC for use in Android phones. So, at least for the short-term, they're in it for the money. In the long run, handset makers may choose to just pay MS for WP7 instead since they're paying anyway. MS would be happy to kill off Android, IF those handset makers choose to use WP7 instead. But Android is better than Symbian since MS gets nothing for Symbian use.

  • sha

    "I’m sure part of the value pitch for Windows Phone is indemnification from IP infringement. ". It's mostly Microsoft's IP anyway…. Talk about a selling pitch, I would be thrilled If I were a manufacturer: "Pay us, or die"

  • famousringo

    Oh, John Gruber reminds everybody that HTC has already licensed Microsoft’s phone patents:

  • Steven Noyes

    In the end, Free Android will not be free. As stated, the hardware manufacturers have no loyalty to the OS, just selling the device. MS does not care if they make 25 USD per WP7 handset or 25 USD per Android handset. The carriers will determine what handsets get special treatment.

  • Walt French

    Steven Noyes sez, “MS does not care if they make 25 USD per WP7 handset or 25 USD per Android handset.”

    I'll guess that $25 per WP7 handset is a LOT more attractive to them. It gives other Microsoft much more negotiating leverage versus the carriers and better branding. If $25 is the right number (sounds ballpark right), they'd probably rather sell a $20 license than take a $35 royalty — much better long-term prospects and MUCH better renegotiation down the road.

    The manufacturers, meanwhile, are on the wrong end of this food chain, and have little to dispute. HTC, Samsung or a dozen others can build any phone that Moto can, its vaunted design skills of yore notwithstanding. The carriers play them all off against one another, too. Without a powerful uncle, they're subject to protection rackets.

    I dunno the state of Apple's and Microsoft's cross-licensing, but it looks like the manufacturers will end up paying tribute to one or the other, maybe both. Very likely, both firms would be happy with Android confined to maybe 10% market share and will license accordingly.

  • Rob Scott

    It think the end goal for Microsoft is for Android to cost OEMs real money. HTC is already paying Microsoft for Android and will most likely lose against Apple, a huge financial risk on their part. A responsible CEO/Board would insist on changing strategy, dumping Android and going with Windows Phone and/or Symbian.

    The biggest loser here will be Google. Apple has iAD because of Android and they will be probably replace a lot of Google services going forward e.g. Maps as soon as they have capacity to do so e.g. the data centre they are building.

    Google has manage to make enemies from former friends.

    So here is my market share forecast for Android: 5% in 2020, iOS 20%

  • Johhny Ives

    As inventors of the mobile phone, Motorola surely has an extensive portfolio of patents for use in counter- suit, with the most likely outcome being a cross-licensing agreement. Read between the lines and this is good news for Mot. It presents oppurtumity of immunization from MS licencing costs relative to newer manufacturers, who have fewer "bairgaining chips" in thinner portfolios.

    MS may suceed in forcing the hand of newer manufacturers to ship WP7, however this has historically been a poor differentiator; Mot learned a hard lesson with WinMo Q and is unlilely to rinse and repeat.

    • "Mot learned a hard lesson with WinMo Q and is unlilely to rinse and repeat"
      And what lesson did they learn with Android?

      • Johhny Ives

        How to return to profitability, albeit small, in two Quarters.

      • GoodyBird

        You can't put a senseUI on a WP7.

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  • Android is a promise of freedom from the Windows yoke for device manufacturers who otherwise could never compete in the smartphone market.

    Android IP issues are sure a fly in the ointment.

  • Charlie

    Does anyone know how much HTC are paying Microsoft? It could be a pittance per device, or it could be a lot, and without knowing the actual amount involved it's hard to say how much of an impact these deals will have on Android growth among other, smaller, manufacturers that could also be targeted (but presumably only if they sell into the US market which is pretty much the only place where software patents exist).

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