updated 09:25 am EDT, Tue October 26, 2010
MS said bullying Acer, ASUS over Android patents
Microsoft may be using its alleged Android patent ownership to intimidate Acer and ASUS into shying away from Google operating systems on their devices, sources claimed on Tuesday. Having already successfully pressured HTC, the Windows developer is reportedly hoping to collect royalties from all Taiwan-area device firms and make it too expensive to use Android and possibly Chrome OS on phones and netbooks. The deal isn't thought to be a cash grab at this level as neither Acer nor ASUS are big enough, Digitimes' tips mentioned.
Android is often free or very low cost to use for most phone manufacturers, as the usual requirement is only to meet certain minimum guidelines for access to Android Market and key Google apps. Having to license the patents would add $10 to $15 to the cost and would negate one of the advantages of skipping over Windows Phone, although Android and Chrome OS should both be less expensive than the roughly $30 it usually costs for a Windows 7 Starter Edition license.
The pattern follows the same strategy Microsoft has used to try and suppress Linux, where the company has implied it has control of patents and has used the implied threat of a lawsuit to negotiate licensing deals with Novell and other companies. Critics have accused Microsoft of repeating strategies from the 1990s that led to antitrust trials, where the company charged for Windows licenses on each PC even when they shipped with an entirely different OS. The Android licensing technique effectively guarantees that Microsoft profits no matter whose platform is used and would reduce the use of Google's platforms.
Until the lawsuit against Motorola, no company had significantly challenged the validity of Microsoft's Linux or Android patents. Microsoft has also noticeably avoided challenging Google directly despite all of the patent claims revolving around Android itself.
The timing of royalty demands from Acer and ASUS would be convenient for Microsoft, as both are becoming more important to Google's mobile strategy. Both should be some of the first to ship netbooks carrying Chrome OS and would be one-time Windows Mobile faithfuls that have since mostly abandoned that platform for Android phones like the Acer Liquid E. Microsoft has simultaneously been losing most of its market share and is just launching Windows Phone, with adding partners and eliminating competition both high priorities.