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Microsoft Responds About HTC Deal– Concerned About Android

The news of the licensing deal between HTC and Microsoft (s msft) is surprising, primarily as it covers HTC’s work in the Android (s goog) platform. Microsoft has provided licensing of its technology in the past, but this was the first time specifically covering the hot Android platform. Redmond wants to make it clear it is serious about protecting its intellectual property, and it is duly concerned about infringements of that IP inherent in the Android platform. We received this statement from Horacio Guiterrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft:

Microsoft has a decades-long record of investment in software platforms. As a result, we have built a significant patent portfolio in this field, and we have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to ensure that competitors do not free ride on our innovations.  We have also consistently taken a proactive approach to licensing to resolve IP infringement by other companies, and have been talking with several device manufacturers to address our concerns relative to the Android mobile platform.

Guiterrez recently shared his views on the Apple patent infringement suit against HTC. He feels licensing technology to third parties is vital to the growth of the smartphone segment, just as was done in the past when the main purpose of phones were “to make and receive calls.” Most interesting is his view on how the “software stack” in smartphones has replaced that important “radio stack” as the critical area in which technology licensing will play a big role.

Now, however, as a new category of ‘smart’ devices has emerged, the value proposition has moved to the software stack.  As is clear from advertising by all of the major brands – Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s Blackberry, Palm’s Pr?, Motorola’s Droid, and Windows Phones – people buy smartphones because they are fully functional computers that fit in the palm of your hand.  The radio stack is still valuable, as it allows the phone to connect to the Internet.  But what is most valuable is not the connection per se, but the new things that users can do with it – find nearby restaurants and movie theaters, send and receive email, and watch video, just to name a few.  The primary driver for adoption and sales in this market is the software on and available for the device.

This situation bears watching, and it is not clear how Android will fare over time. Android phone makers may need to all make deals with Microsoft and possibly Apple to cover all bets. Microsoft is not sharing details about which other companies it is in discussions with over Android infringements.

Image courtesy Microsoft

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Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

12 Responses to “Microsoft Responds About HTC Deal– Concerned About Android”

  1. The part where he discusses the importance of the Software Stack makes him come off as being well in the know about his field. Unlike certain other Microsoft execs ahem.

    I also agree with his (or Microsoft’s) view on patent protection. So long as the patents are useful and not obvious (two of quite a few criteria to be granted a patent) they should be protected regardless of the company.

    What I really want to know is how old these patents are, I really want to know when/if Google will ever be able to use them in the mobile space. If the patents still have a long way to go to expiration, and Microsoft could stop Google or an OEM from using them, then the mobile space may have evolved too much by then.

    I’m also glad Microsoft is discussing the patents with other companies rather than just outright suing. (even though they have every right to.)

    Hopefully Microsoft will release more info regarding this patent dispute soon.

    • rickybrent

      The problem with that is — except for Apple — most of the companies in the cell phone space have enough patents of critical features to kill anything their competition might use. If Microsoft wants to play hardball, we might end up with a ban on all Windows phones (or OSes if they try to assert against Linux) and a ban on all Android phones, too, similar to what Nokia and (hilariously) Apple are requesting.

      I agree that it’s nice of them to talk about it and not sue, though. Microsoft just has a really bad history along these lines… :( I mean, I have a lot of stock in Microsoft, but some things are just beyond the pale.

      • You know, now that I think about it, it is very true. It seems like every company these days, is suing their competition, and their competition is suing their competition and… so on. Case in point: Nokia to Apple to HTC. (an indirect blow to Google)

        But what boggles my mind is that if all of these companys have enough patents on their software to kill their competitors software alternative, how did it get that way?…

        My reasoning behind the question is that in the USA the way the patent system works is first to create not first to file. So wouldn’t that mean that the first mobile OS has the right to all of these patents?

        Well I’m going to contradict myself once again here. No, it doesn’t mean the first OS has the right to it all, because different features were implemented at different times.

        So, basically, I completely agree with you, but, the patent system in the US is such a mess, and its all thanks to those damn software patents…

  2. jahan khan rashid

    This is all very confusing for me, are all these patents hardware or software related? If its hardware then why should Google be worried? They have only released one phone and It looks like they won’t be releasing any others. It’s se,HTC,Samsung,LG and all other Android phone makers etc that should be worried. What makes me laugh is that Google really helped apples iPhone take off, and this is. What they get for it! If I was in goggles shoes id release Google navigator for free and all other future google apps and hammer them with small Android adverts!

  3. Google (with HTC et al) should counter-attack Microsoft and demand Microsoft substantiate their claim and pinpoint the problem areas.
    Now, no correcting action is possible (as replacing the alleged offending bits) and only the Redmond-tax remains.

  4. “…and have been talking with several device manufacturers to address our concerns relative to the Android mobile platform.”

    This is an interesting if ambiguous statement. Is the concern about those Android manufacturers using infringing technology built on licensed Google technology or about infringing technology in Android?

    The recent Microsoft/HTC licensing deal would suggest the former since HTC would hardly purchase a license to protect infringing Google technology.

    It would appear the Google isn’t directly threatened by Microsoft’s recent actions. What may concern Google is if code built on Android was to become suddenly unavailable. Would a HTC Android phone be less desirable without Sense?

  5. Whatever the merits of the patents, it’s easier to get paid by an OEM for using Android when they already have to write you checks for your own mobile OS…. I think they call it: leverage. :)

  6. The smartphone wars are on!

    I think that is a very sharp statement from Microsoft re the ‘smartphone stack’ — which, in effect, validates Apple’s app strategy.

    However, I still believe that Microsoft’s DNA — packaged desktop software — make it a dinosaur. Therefore I expect them to become quite the patent lawsuit troll.

  7. FairFan

    your right Erika, just as i would like to see Apple pay Palm for the NUMEROUS patents they violated with the creation of the iPhone.

    “It is ironic and a bit hypocritical of MS since so much of their non-mobile technologies have been stolen in the past.”

    totally right there, just like how ironic it is for Apple to sue HTC when Apple themselves is stepping all over Palms patents.

    “that would open up a sweet revenue stream that they so rightly deserve for their hard work innovating mobile tech and their leadership role in the smartphone space.”

    have to agree again, it would be WONDERFUL to not only see Palm be paid for innovating the mobile space but CREATING it as well! before anyone mentions the Newton, do any of you even remember how big that was? Palm created the 1st handheld which is why every other PDA OS since has copied the form factor (WinMo, Android, iPod Touch). not to mention that Steve actually killed it because he thought handheld tech was a failure.

    its really refreshing Erika to see someone that isnt just a blind teenage Apple fan & clearly knows the history of mobile tech. the difference between those that actually pioneered the market & those that came after to improve on it & make jazzy commercials to get braindead masses to buy their products.

    you wanna give Apple credit? do it for the Mac. but your probably not old enough to know that history.

  8. Erika Extortion

    Cannot wait until Nokia, Motorola and HTC all pay Apple royalties per phone and per continued usage via Apple patented technologies. This should fatten Apple wallet accordingly. Nobody should be allowed to piggyback on Apple or MS mobile tech. This is one of the very few things I actually agree with Microsoft on. It is ironic and a bit hypocritical of MS since so much of their non-mobile technologies have been stolen in the past.

    I would like to see Apple charge a nominal fee per daily use of some of their technologies, that would open up a sweet revenue stream that they so rightly deserve for their hard work innovating mobile tech and their leadership role in the smartphone space.

    • mr-crash

      Some of the commenters on this site should move to silicon valley and take up careers as geeky comedians.

      Nokia… Pay Apple for its “leadership role in the smartphone space”? – fantastic comedic value here.

      I’m not in any way diminishing the fact that Apple has (after a fashion) innovated in certain aspects of the phones they produce, but they’re building a lot on the hard work Nokia in particular have done. Nokia have a colossal IP portfolio and while their products aren’t really as high end as they could be any more, they’ve still got enough cash to be a big pain for Apple.

      But this whole attitude towards innovation shits me. Patents are supposed to encourage innovation, not be used as a crude weapon to selectively license competitors out of the cheapest or most desirable technology. Absurd.

      Back to Nokia again though, Apple is stomping all over a bunch of patents they have related to the GSM and wifi radio in the phone. Which is, some might say, pretty essential to it being a phone really and all of Apple’s nice software doesn’t function in this context, without access to the technology locked up in those patents.