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HTC Agrees to Microsoft Royalties On Android Handsets

Gordon Kelly

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HTC Agrees to Microsoft Royalties On Android Handsets

Could every company making Android handsets soon have to pay royalties to Microsoft?

That is the question raised by today's eyebrow raising agreement between Microsoft and HTC which sees the duo agree "a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for HTC’s mobile phones running the Android mobile platform. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties from HTC."

Frustratingly neither company divulges what patents were being violated, but it does set a worrying precedent. How much is HTC paying? How will Motorola, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Lenovo and Acer all respond, let alone smaller handset makers using Google's open source OS? Will it discourage the manufacture of Android handsets if the patents affect bottom lines? Could Apple's iPhone OS also be liable? What about Symbian? We simply don't have enough information to say with any accuracy.

Whatever the patents, however, if Google continues to evolve Android at the speed it is doing then the appeal is likely to remain. Most recently in yesterday's New York Times, Google VP Andy Rubin confirmed Adobe Flash support will be hard wired into Android 2.2 (codenamed 'Froyo'). Until now only proprietary extensions - as seen in HTC's Sense UI - had enabled this.

Less encouraging though is a trend we've seen from manufacturers to split their high and low-end Android handsets by the platform's version numbers. Cheaper models like the LG 'Optimus' ('GT540' - pictured below) announced this week for a May launch are being restricted to v1.6 while more expensive models are being typically released with v2.x which is far more feature rich.

The whole point of making an open source mobile operating system is firmware updates should be open to all, not used to exploit customers and enforce a device which shouldn't even exist. Tut tut handset makers.

In related news O2 has confirmed to Techradar it has delayed the launch of the HTC Desire until May as it is still completing network tests (*insert sarcastic joke here*). O2 is already the last network to release the Desire, so it really needs to pull its finger out.

Links:

Microsoft Patent Statement

NYT Interview

Chris

April 28, 2010, 6:17 pm

Is it possible that these patent infringements are actually directed at the Android version of Sense UI, rather than Android itself? That might explain why MS has only taken aim at HTC for now...

Gordon394

April 28, 2010, 8:50 pm

@Chris - it could well be. Unfortunately it could also be directed at HTC's screen polishing practices for all we know!

gurnaik

April 28, 2010, 9:36 pm

Appallingly unethical behaviour from Microsoft. It's about time somebody called their bluff on these patents.

Chris

April 28, 2010, 9:50 pm

Yeah, the Android version of their screen polishing practices, perhaps? :)





All the best WM phones have been HTCs up till now. Where would WM 6.5 be without HTC? I mean, talk about biting the hand that feeds you...

life

April 28, 2010, 9:52 pm

Like most of these actions, it's probably borderline frivolous and being used strategically to harass their rivals (in this case Google). This software patent warfare shit needs to stop. It's doing untold amounts of damage to the technology industry, the whole system (particularly in the US) needs a complete overhaul.





Right now the only beneficiaries are large corporations, patent trolls (there are shell companies out there whos entire business model is to acquire IP and threaten other organisations with legal action!) and the lawyers representing them. Everyone else from small firms to consumers are getting completely screwed over.

Castalan

April 28, 2010, 10:48 pm

All I read in the article was ...





blah blah blah blah waffle blah


Android 2.2 is coming in May with flash support built in


Blah blah waffle blah





:D





Role on May

scotw

April 28, 2010, 10:50 pm

It could also be a tactic MS has used before. Sign up an already close partner (HTC) for a nominal (or free) fee in order to lend weight to your argument later on when you take on someone less likely to roll over. The real solution is for America to just get on with it and get rid of software patents. The argument that they encourage competition gets more ridiculous every day.

Martin Daler

April 29, 2010, 12:02 am

I guess soon they will have a choice, run Microsoft's WinPhone7 and pay royalties to Microsoft, or run Google's Android and pay royalties to, er, Microsoft. I'm sure the irony is not lost in Redmond. Maybe HTC want to take another look at buying out Palm?

scotw

April 29, 2010, 3:34 am

"Maybe HTC want to take another look at buying out Palm?"





Too late, that boat has sailed, HP is the new owner.

Gordon394

April 29, 2010, 3:37 am

Yep, picked this up at 9pm in the middle of the Champions League semi final (damn Inter Milan). Writing it up now - nice late night for me!

Helmore

April 29, 2010, 5:36 am

Is there a possibility that this agreement between HTC and Microsoft could help HTC in it's lawsuit with Apple? I don't know the exact details of this deal so it's hard to tell whether HTC could use Microsoft's patents to defend itself. It might explain why HTC did not want to buy Palm if that's the case, but I doubt that this agreement could help HTC against Apple.

kdot

April 29, 2010, 7:02 am

@Helmore: That would be interesting, would be an amazing turn of events if it turned out that way and not completely outside the realms of possibilty imo, dont think theres much love lost between MS and Apple.

Don Kanonjii

April 30, 2010, 11:55 am

It would be rather funny if Apple had to pay Microsoft Royalties...

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