As you may have heard, Apple filed a massive lawsuit against phone-maker HTC nearly two months ago. Apple is alleging that HTC is infringing on over 20 of its iPhone patents. While HTC makes phones for a number of partners, it’s pretty clear that this is Apple going after Google’s Android platform indirectly. And now Google may have just found an unlikely ally in this fight: Microsoft. [Update below with a new interesting twist.]
Yes, the software giant, which makes the rival Windows Mobile (and soon Windows Phone 7) phone software has announced a deal with HTC that allows them to license their patented technology. On the face of it, this deal may make some sense since HTC also makes Windows Mobile phones. But the key to this is right there in Microsoft’s statement on the matter, “Microsoft Corp. and HTC Corp. have signed a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for HTC’s mobile phones running the Android mobile platform” (Emphasis mine)
So yes, this seems to be Microsoft lending its (undoubtedly massive) arsenal of patents to help HTC and Google combat Apple (though, naturally, the rationale behind the deal — and Apple — are never named). It’s hard to imagine what else this could possibly be about [more below]. It’s also hard to figure out why Microsoft sent this release out at 11:30 at night.
While Microsoft undoubtedly gets some pleasure out of helping someone else fight its longtime rival, Apple, these days, the company seems much more at odds with Google. And yet, they’re helping them out here (yes, again, indirectly). Of course, this undoubtedly makes sense economically for Microsoft — they’ll receive royalties from HTC, presumably for each device sold. Yes, Android devices. The release also notes that the “agreement expands HTC’s long-standing business relationship with Microsoft.“
This past month, HTC was thought to be the leading candidate to buy Palm — if for no other reason than their mobile patents that may help in the Apple suit. But last week, HTC reportedly dropped its bid for Palm. Perhaps the negotiation of this deal made that much easier to do.
Update: And this just got much more complicated. Microsoft is now apparently claiming that Android is infringing on its patents, CNET reports. So this deal may have more to do with HTC covering itself if Microsoft decides to go after Google. But it’s hard to know for sure at this point.
As Ina Fried reports:
Microsoft has taken the position, according to those close to the company, that Android infringes on the company’s patented technology and that the infringement applies broadly in areas ranging from the user interface to the underlying operating system.
So Microsoft, with this deal, may be both threatening and inadvertently helping Google (if their patents help HTC against the Apple suit). Very interesting, to say the least.
Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured. Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market. Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and...
HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Phone 7 operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in late 2006, the company has introduced dozens of HTC-branded products around the world. The company recently introduced the HTC diamond to compete with Apple’s iPhone. Founded in 1997 by Cher Wang, Chairwoman, and H T Cho - former CEO who is a chairman now, HTC made its name as...
Android is a software platform for mobile devices based on the Linux operating system and developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance. It allows developers to write managed code in Java that utilizes Google-developed software libraries, but does not support programs developed in native code. The unveiling of the Android platform on 5 November 2007 was announced with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 34 hardware, software and telecom companies devoted to advancing open standards...
Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook Air) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod, the...