The exact numbers are probably in dispute, but it’s hard to argue with the basic notion that Microsoft’s most lucrative mobile strategy over the past three years has been driven by its lawyers, not its product-development team.
A series of estimates from Citi and Asymco pegs the revenue Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has collected through its patent licensing deal from HTC at $150 million, while revenue from Windows Phone 7 is said to be just $30 million. The revenue estimates compiled by Asymco rely on a research note from Citi published Friday that says HTC is paying Microsoft $5 per Android handset and some calculations that HTC has shipped 30 million Android phones out of the 50 million it has shipped overall since the launch of the mobile OS in late 2008. Microsoft said in January it had sold 2 million Windows Phone 7 licenses, and it’s widely believed that the company is charging handset makers $15 per unit.
Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts in that equation. But even if Microsoft has tripled the number of Windows Phone 7 licenses sold since January (which seems unlikely), it will have sold 6 million licenses for $90 million in revenue. And while Android has provided almost all of HTC’s shipment growth over the past few years, using a more conservative estimate that only half the phones it sold over that period ran Android means we’re talking about $125 million.
If Windows Phone 7 ever takes off, the numbers won’t look as odd in the long run. But in the short term Microsoft is definitely committed to a patent-licensing strategy with regards to other Android vendors: while HTC signed a deal rather than litigate, Motorola (NYSE: MMI) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) plan to fight. And Citi’s Walter Prichard wrote that Microsoft is seeking royalty fees of $7.50 to $12.50 per device during this round of negotiations.
Just for the sake of comparison, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) recorded $12.3 BILLION in iPhone-related revenue during just the last quarter.