updated 11:55 am EDT, Tue July 5, 2011
MS makes Wistron sign deal for Android, Chrome OS
Microsoft continued a campaign to try and stifle competition from Google on Tuesday by pressing Wistron into signing a patent licensing deal. The agreement will see Wistron pay Microsoft royalties for not just the Android e-readers, phones, and tablets it makes for other companies but also Chrome OS devices. A deal for Chromebooks and similar hardware appears to be new and suggests Microsoft believes it's inherently owed money on the web-first OS as well.
Taiwan-based Wistron chose not to comment on the deal. Acer and Samsung, the only two manufacturers of Chrome OS-based PCs so far, also haven't commented on the implication of possible lawsuits.
The deal follows a slew of such agreements in the last couple of weeks that have included Onkyo, Velocity Micro, and General Dynamics. Microsoft is widely known to be using these deals as leverage to push holdouts into paying royalties rather than challenge the legitimacy of its patents through defense in a lawsuit.
Only a few companies are resisting so far and are led by Motorola, which has countersued and so far refused to bend. Barnes & Noble has also exposed some of Microsoft's tactics and notes that its patent terms would charge more than for Windows Phone 7 to get a patent license for a device as simple as the Nook Color.
Significantly, Microsoft has given heavy discounts to those who use Windows Phone and isn't yet known to be charging Dell, LG, and Samsung for Android use despite Google being a much larger part of their businesses. Many of the companies targeted either can't use Windows for their products or have just started moving away and are relatively small.
Chrome OS, the new addition, is likely being targeted as it too promises to oust a traditional Microsoft foothold. Windows netbooks have seen sales crash owed mostly to the iPad, but Chromebooks could further eat into that share as well as get those buying low-end notebooks. The OS poses the most threat in Microsoft's enterprise bastion, where the greatly reduced need for support and constant updating could undermine Microsoft's most important market.