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Microsoft Now Collects Royalties From Over Half of All Android Devices 241

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the where-can-i-get-me-some-patents dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has inked a deal with Compal Electronics, which pumps out gadgets that run Android and Chrome OS, for an undisclosed sum." Microsoft has an explanatory weblog post; with this deal over half of all Android devices are licensing patents from Microsoft. Notably refusing to cooperate and instead opting for the court battle route are Motorola and Barnes and Noble.
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Microsoft Now Collects Royalties From Over Half of All Android Devices

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  • Plan B (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ant P. (974313) on Monday October 24, 2011 @07:50AM (#37815774) Homepage

    I guess it's more cost-effective to shakedown directly than using SCO as a proxy.

    • It also helps that this time they're using the much more vague patent angle, and not the more-easily-discredited copyright one.

      When SCO was dumb enough to chase IBM over copyright, they forgot that they had to prove copyright was actually violated (something that's 2x as impossible to do considering the whole BSD/SysV wars)

      With patents, and the habit of chasing smaller companies (or those with no dog in the IT fights) Microsoft doesn't really have to prove much of anything - just whip out a ton of broadly-w

  • I cant help drawing parallels to the Novell agreement where Microsoft in practice paid Novell hefty sums to keep going in Microsofts direction, focusing on MS technologies and products.

    Would anyone except Nokia keep churning WP7 phones out when it still, one year after release has not gotten more than 0,3% of the market? I strongly suspect Samsung, HTC etc in reality gets paid for using WP7 and dont pay a dime to use Android. Ofcourse on paper they pay Microsoft for licenses, but then they get that money and ten times more back in the form of marketing contributions for WP7.

    Just as with Novell that is.

  • by WolfgangPG (827468) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:03AM (#37815892)
    Fairly good article explaing the Royalties: http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2011/10/microsoft-collects-license-fees-on-50-of-android-devices-tells-google-to-wake-up.ars [arstechnica.com]

    Quote:"Microsoft didn’t specifically reference that post, but today said “For those who continue to protest that the smartphone patent thicket is too difficult to navigate, it’s past time to wake up.” Microsoft doesn’t just collect money from other companies, it also pays out plenty to protect itself, Microsoft’s legal team notes.

    “Over the past decade we’ve spent roughly $4.5 billion to license in patents from other companies,” Microsoft said. “These have given us the opportunity to build on the innovations of others in a responsible manner that respects their IP rights. Equally important, we've stood by our customers and partners with countless agreements that contain the strongest patent indemnification provisions in our industry. These ensure that if our software infringes someone else's patents, we'll address the problem rather than leave it to others.” /endquote
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      “Over the past decade we’ve spent roughly $4.5 billion to license in patents from other companies,” Microsoft said.

      But patents don't block newcomers from innovation. No, not at all. Why would a newcomer have trouble innovating because of a couple of patents they would need to license?

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      It is all compatibility functionality. If phone makers would ditch VFAT and syncing with Office apps they wouldn't have to pay the devil anything.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        The problem there is that MS doesn't include support for other FS, they support NTFS, VFAT, ISO9660, UDF and that's about it. If you choose to use any other OS, then you're choosing to prevent a large group of less savvy users from being able to copy files onto it, either because you're going to need a special utility or because you need special drivers. Either way, it's not a particularly workable solution for a mass market device, and MS knows that.

        A better thing would be for the DoJ and the EU to step in

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          Maybe, Android phones should just install their own driver to read btrfs or ext2 or something on a windows machine. Or better yet, the vfat file system calls are well documented, all an Android phone needs to do is intercept them and translate to what ever file format they want. The phone only needs an interface that a windows machine will recognize, not to actually store the data that way.

        • This is why using a document synching or cloud storage service which uses a network protocol instead of a physical connection is so important. You don't need an ext4 driver to download an mpeg file from a Linux server over http or ftp.
        • by Tapewolf (1639955)

          The problem there is that MS doesn't include support for other FS, they support NTFS, VFAT, ISO9660, UDF and that's about it

          UDF is the real shame - it was originally supposed to be a Universal Disk Format which could be used on HDDs too, and had that worked everyone would be using that instead. But last I looked, windows will choke if you try to use UDF on anything other than an optical disk.

      • by robmv (855035)

        And the new Nexus phone (Nexus Galaxy) and the previous one (Nexus S) has no SD card slot, so there is no need for a VFAT enabled kernel, they probably use MTP like my Xoom does to access the internal memory. Other Samsung devices has SD Card, but not those branded as Nexus.

  • by assertation (1255714) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:05AM (#37815910)

    I guess I am going Apple

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511)

      Because they (Apple) never go after anyone with questionable patent claims or because Apple has already paid for/cross-licensed everything they need with the companies you don't like?

    • I assume you are being sarcastic but if not you realize that that would be completely the opposite of what you'd want to do. You would want to support Motorola or B&N who are fighting Microsoft.

      Of course, pretty much every tech company nowadays has patents they are suing over so I am not sure that you can buy a phone without supporting one of them.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:13AM (#37815972)

    with this deal over half of all Android devices are licensing patents from Microsoft.

    Why is Google silent in this matter? Now before you mod me down, I know Google have made some inconsequential comments. These have not helped at all.

    Dicalimer: I am not a lawyer.

    If I were Google, I would file a some lawsuit to 'force' Microsoft to reveal the patents that Android is infringing on, or force Microsoft not to mention the word Android in its licensing propaganda.

    My suspicions of what is really going on:

    1: Microsoft approaches an Android OEM with a 'sweet deal' relating to Android.

    2: Microsoft pays the OEM some cash and a deal is struck that results in the OEM saying no word about the deal, but allows Microsoft to spread FUD.

    On major OEMs like Samsung, the deal could be about future android based products that would envisage incorporating Microsoft technology (which actually exists and is interesting).

    You wonder why the other party says nothing at all about the licensing. But the major thing about all this is the silence of Google.

    What Google could do in addition, is to modify the non GPL portions of Android and add language that specifically prohibits licensees from entering into licensing deals like the ones Microsoft touts if they are going to be party to Microsoft's FUD.

    Here's the worry: It might backfire!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google can't do anything about the FAT patent that everyone has to use for card storage. Consumers expect to be able to pull the SD card from a device and have it usable in something else without having to worry about file system drivers. FAT is the defacto standard for memory cards today.

      The industry fell asleep on this one, when they should have all worked together to create a license and royalty free open spec file system. The blew it and are now paying the price, well, we the consumer is paying the pric

      • Folks at Pubat claim the patent was rejected [pubpat.org].

        • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Monday October 24, 2011 @09:48AM (#37817728)

          You are correct that FAT is not covered by patents, but VFAT is. It is the use of the long filename addition to FAT that Microsoft licences.

        • by Locutus (9039)
          IIRC, they rejected the FAT patents but accepted the claims related to VFAT and how it stores and maps long file names.

          LoB
        • by Locutus (9039)
          and it sounds like Barnes and Nobles big problem with the licensing fee Microsoft wants to extract is that it's close to the same fee they charge to license their mobile OS. ie the fee is excessive for such a small portion of the whole. But they are charging based on how it causes the competitions cost to rise in comparison to their own. B&N brings this up too.

          Google is really blowing it by not stepping up both the rhetoric and the court battles on this.

          LoB
      • The patent covers VFAT, the long-names extension to FAT. Simple way to avoid the patent, don't support long names, only support FAT on your memory cards. Of course, the license fee for VFAT probably isn't very large so that one might not be worth the the tradeoff.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      The thing is, it isnt neccessarily Android that infringes. It may well be the handset makers implementation, maybe even hardware. Note Microsoft hasnt sued Google yet AFAIK. This makes it not Googles problem.
    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      You wonder why the other party says nothing at all about the licensing.

      Because both parties agreed to not discuss the specifics of the licensing deal, something that is pretty standard. They (Samsung, HTC, Apple, ..etc..) stand to gain nothing by letting their competition (Samsung, HTC, Apple, ...etc..) know what their own deal is, as their competition could then easily refuse to accept anything worse. Its the fog of war codified in a non-disclosure agreement that both sides of a negotiation typically insist upon (Barnes and Noble being the exception... but they have nothing

      • by bogaboga (793279)

        Here's my problem.

        If an OEM is going to licence some stuff from Microsoft for use in Android, that's fine. Let them go ahead, after all Android can be 'extended', being opensource.

        The trouble is that Microsoft's FUD is claiming that Android OS *is* is infringing. Let them clarify. Are they saying that the source code as downloaded from Android's website infringes or the additions/modifications to the source code by OEMs make Android devices infringe. All I would like is a clarification, and only a lawsuit c

        • by Rockoon (1252108)

          If an OEM is going to licence some stuff from Microsoft for use in Android, that's fine. Let them go ahead, after all Android can be 'extended', being opensource.

          Are you forgetting about the opposite of 'extended?' Android, being opensource, may also be 'limited' by the OEM.

          The trouble is that Microsoft's FUD is claiming that Android OS *is* is infringing. Let them clarify.

          If you want a specific case clarified you can look at their lawsuit with Motorola where the patents that Microsoft claims are being violated by Motorola are now public information.

          All I would like is a clarification, and only a lawsuit can assure this.

          It seems like you are the one spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) by pretending that such a lawsuit doesnt exist. There is actual certainty (ie, no doubt) about which patents Microsoft is claiming that Motorola

      • by oakgrove (845019)

        P.S. Even Google licensed from Microsoft for Google-branded phones. Thats right, even Google is licensing from Microsoft.

        Many of your posts mention this like it is some grand revelation. Google licenses ActiveSync. Duh.

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          Google is paying only for ActiveSync, but is certainly paying more than a phone manufacturer would (because Google Apps Sync uses it too, not just Google's Android phones.) Microsoft would have to endanger its current arrangement with Google in order to seek revenue on patents that Google has not licensed in their Android phones.

          So yeah.. you don't know why its significant.. Duh.
    • Things will become interesting with the suite against Motorola, especially if Google is successful in buying them. If Google owns Motorola and Motorola actually pays licenses to Microsoft for using Android, it will be very entertaining. If Microsoft drops the suite (presumingly because the NDA and sweet deal you proposed was not possible with a company owned by Google) it might also be quite revealing.

      (I did not find a link about the current state of that case. If it was already dropped please anyone post a

  • by transami (202700) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:22AM (#37816060) Homepage

    Does anyone else find it ironic that the broken U.S. patent system, and by extension, the broken U.S. government, along with some good-old boy corporate nepotism, is leading us right back to the old Microsoft/Apple duopoly? No more webOS, no more Meego, RIM is on the ropes and Android looks to be next.

    Who looses? The customer.

    • Huh? How do you figure? Microsoft had nothing to do with the death of webOS or RIM (not even sure what Meego is) - they committed suicide. And I see this more of Microsoft realizing they have no chance against the Android/Apple juggernauts and want to cash in any way they can. Android's market base is way too big for even Microsoft to take them down at this point.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Oh, you mean the US laws that banned the Galaxy Tab for being a rectangle? News flash: this isnt just a US problam.
    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      My problem is that they are effectively exporting that broken system.
    • by webheaded (997188) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:49AM (#37816460) Homepage
      The thing that bothers me about all this is that Google hasn't stepped into the courts really very much at all yet. These companies are getting screwed using the Google OS and quite frankly, Google should be helping them out in court. I don't understand why they haven't yet.

      Also, I hate to be that guy but why do I see SO many people that don't know how to use loose vs lose? You lose a customer. You loose the hounds upon someone. That bolt is loose. You lose bolts all the time. I am not kidding at all...I see it everywhere. I think I'm starting to see this more than the people that can't use then and than right and I am perplexed.
      • by dc29A (636871) *

        The thing that bothers me about all this is that Google hasn't stepped into the courts really very much at all yet.

        ORLY? [arstechnica.com]

      • by Raenex (947668)

        Also, I hate to be that guy but why do I see SO many people that don't know how to use loose vs lose?

        It drives me nuts too, but this is the English language in evolution. The reason for the mistake is obvious. "lose" rhymes with "choose". I actually wish at this point that we could adopt "luce" as a spelling of loose (as in not tight) and give up on "lose".

    • webOS wasn't killed by patents. Neither was Blackberry. Both RIM and Palm had fantastic patent portfolios. They're untouchable compared to Google.

  • i've been getting frustrated with Barnes and Noble.
    They have been changing into more of a toy store than a book store, but now i feel like going and buying something from them.

    i'll have to look up what the 4th book in the john carter series is.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:28AM (#37816120) Journal

    Microsoft are winning this game, they always have been. They will pillage the open source market and as many markets as they can and squeeze it for every cent. yes Android is pseudo open source, but it's less closed that the ms offering or apples bastardisation of bsd.

    Freedom isn't as shiny as Apple or Microsoft and it's not as glamorous. Sure if that's what you choose, then go ahead, but as actual day to day user of open source software on my desktop I feel that choice is slowly being taken away from me. How long, I wonder, before I can't run an approved software stack on a motherboard at home?

    I see a slow convergence of Microsoft strategies. I don't ever think they will go away, but I wish they would stop trying to impose their will on my choices. Everywhere you turn there is Microsoft throwing its weight around, cementing its monopoly. They are the MacDonalds of Information Technology.

    • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:37AM (#37816228)

      I know the anti-Microsoft tendencies are strong on this site but Microsoft is definitely not "cementing its monopoly".

      IE market share has dropped from 70% in 2008 to 40% in 2011.

      While Windows Desktop OS market share is still high, a large part of that is still XP and Mac has made a small dent in the total as well.

      Linux continues to make huge inroads on the server OS front.

      Smartphones, Windows OS is barely a blimp. And guess what - that's where the future market is. I know several people who fully expect their next "laptop" to actually be a tablet.

      So believe it or not, Microsoft sees a future where it is struggling to stay alive and needs to reinvent itself.

    • It would be cool if Motorola, for example, would just sell phones with no operating system. Then you could hook it up to your computer and download an open source operating system for free (like Android). Then it wouldn't be Motorola's problem if Microsoft claims mobile linux platforms infringe on their patents. They'd just have to worry about hardware, where I'm sure Motorola has a diverse enough battlechest of patents to protect themselves.

      I have a feeling the telecommunications companies stand in the way

  • The patent system was put in place to promote innovation. It's a shame that large companies are able to use it to stifle innovation through patent purchasing and subsequent bullying.

    MS has evolved into a mafia-like organization. They don't innovate anymore, they just make everyone pay them a "protection" tax. (I'd say the same about Apple, but they still innovate in addition to bullying.)

    • Whether apple innovate is also questionable. They produce very good gadgets and they polish them very very well, but there's not a huge amount that they've done that is truly innovative. iPod was just a well polished MP3 player of which there were many before them. iPhone was nothing new (all-touchscreen had been done by LG prada before iPhone was released) iPad was a merging of their iPhone and tablet computers (which MS had been trying (and failing) to generate a mass-market in about 10 years previous) m
      • by Xest (935314)

        They bought in multi-touch too.

        One thing that amazes me when people talk about prior art/device evolution is how many people ignore the likes of Compaq/HPs old line of iPaqs. The iPhone etc. is more an advancement/clone of these than anything. Hell, even the name is close.

  • What's notable this time around is that ChromeOS is also implicated as an infringing technology. Compal is now the third ODM company to enter into a Microsoft agreement over ChromeOS and Android. Brian Proffitt goes into more detail in this blog post: http://www.itworld.com/mobile-wireless/215897/microsoft-why-innovate-when-you-can-litigate [itworld.com]
  • I'm not an open source zealot but I'll admit that having learned B&N didn't knuckle under was a factor in my choice of a Nook Touch e-reader & in fact I bought two; one for myself & one as a gift.

  • Microsoft has warned time and time again that they are going to use this method to destroy open source and software freedom.

    The strategy:
    Microsoft approaches open source business
    Microsoft: You know its a dangerous neighborhood. you should pay us for protection.
    Business Owner: Protection? from who?
    Microsoft: Well...from us really.
    Microsoft: Oh and sigh this NDA you cannot talk about this to anyone ok?

    This campaign is not limited to Android its an attack on all open source and software freedom.
    Its a

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