CyberTech Rambler

October 4, 2010

Microsoft sues Motorola over Android

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:33 pm

Well well well, what do we have here today: Microsoft sues Motorola over Android. I am not really surprised to hear it, but was surprised by the fact that Sky News found it important enough that it to put this on its on screen ticker. For background, Ina Fried of CNET has the court documents.

In Brian Profitt’s excellent analysis, he  thinks it is a proxy fight. I am not so sure. The patents that Microsoft used had been used before to target others, notably TomTom. Microsoft patent settlement with TomTom and HTC makes me think that it is not really a proxy fight. TheRegister’s analysis says that quite a lot of the patents involve ActiveSync and that Google itself is a licensee of the technology. I think it is more about Microsoft wanting to make money.

I can see Microsoft continuing its trend of using “Android” the to grab headline and to further its argument that “Android is not free” and “Windows Mobile is cheaper”. Well, the argument that Android is not “free” is more likely to be based on the fact that Windows Mobile throw in Outlook/Microsoft Exchange connectors for free. “Windows Mobile indemnify you” argument need not apply here because the same would had happened if you have to license GMail connectors in Windows Mobile.

What is true is Microsoft is trying to drive up cost for manufacturer of Android,  to gain publicity for “Windows Mobile is cheaper”  and jump on creating “uncertainty” to deter Android adoption by carriers. Quite frankly, whether this works depends a lot of how much Microsoft demand from Android for accessing Microsoft Outlook/Exchange and whether the sum extracted exceeds what CEOs and CTOs are expecting to pay. Unlike you and me, CEOs and CTOs are informed people. They don’t pay attention to Microsoft hypes. They know how much the work needed to be done for Android and had worked out the cost, including paying Microsoft for some patent rights. I personally expect the license fee to be significantly lower than $8 to &15 Microsoft charges for Windows Mobile 7 as I do not  think Microsoft wants to be investigated by antitrust bodies for using its Outlook/Exchange muscle to muscle into the mobile market. If it does, rest assured one of the companies will bring it to the attention of European Commission. Even assuming the overall licensing fee for Android (to get ALL patent trolls to go away) exceeds what a manufacturer pay for Windows Mobile, as long as it is not too substantial, manufacturer is too wary about handling MS another monopoly and suffers from this later to opt out of a potential independent path from Microsoft.

Profitt and others are right: Expects a settlement.

While I do expect to see Microsoft using its patents to extract licensing fee, it is quite uncharacteristic for a big company who is not in financial meltdown of any kind to behave like a patent troll and targets competition the way it does. Just cannot quite put my finger on what’s wrong with Microsoft approach but there is  clearly something amiss in the way Microsoft handles a box-standard industry patent litigation to extract money. May be it is the specific mention of targeting Android from the horse’s mouth. May be something else.

I  tell you what I find strange in the Microsoft Press Release. It clearly feels that it needs to justify the litigation which is at odds with other litigations. Specifically I am referring to the need to say

“We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market.”

That sounds to me like some uneasiness about launching this patent suit, therefore the need to justify the suit. Does it mean Microsoft investors are worry that the R&D money is going down the drain and MS is trying to proof otherwise? Or is it trying to justify something it thinks is ethically wrong? We will have to wait to find out.

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