Microsoft's Android licensing deal with Samsung could be a harbinger of more manufacturers reconsidering Windows Phone as an alternative.
Microsoft's cross-licensing deal with Samsung, in which the
latter will pay undisclosed royalties for its Android tablets and smartphones,
represents a seismic shift in the already-tumultuous smartphone space.
Microsoft now has licensing agreements with two of the top
Android manufacturers, HTC and Samsung. Although the financial terms of these
partnerships are never publicly disclosed, Microsoft stands to gain quite a bit
from its deal-making: A new research note from Goldman Sachs (as paraphrased by
) suggests that Microsoft could earn some $444 million from Android
licenses in fiscal 2012.
However, others dispute that number. "Goldman Sachs' estimate
of Android patent royalties collected by [Microsoft] is not serious analysis
but more like reading tea leaves, at best," patent expert Florian Mueller tweeted Sept. 29
. In a posting on
the day before, he reiterated rumors that Microsoft had asked
Samsung "for $15 per device and Samsung was trying to move the amount closer to
$10," while reiterating that "none of this is verifiable."
If Microsoft's victory streak continues, it could make
things more complicated for Android. Microsoft and Motorola Mobility are locked
in a vicious legal battle over patent infringement, a set of court cases made
more complicated by Google's decision to acquire the handset manufacturer for
Google sent a Sept. 28 statement to TechCrunch
characterizing Microsoft's legal maneuverings as an attempt to "extort profit
from others' achievements and hinder the pace of innovation."
Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate communications lead, tweeted
a short response: "Let me boil
down the Google [statement] they gave to @parislemon from 48 words to 1:
Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's general
counsel and deputy general counsel, used a coauthored Sept. 28 posting on the Microsoft
on the Issues
Website to spin their company's strategy in the best possible
light. "These agreements prove that licensing works," they wrote. "They show
what can be achieved when companies sit down and address intellectual property
issues in a responsible manner. The rapid growth of the technology industry,
and its continued fast pace of innovation are founded on mutual respect for
IP." In turn, they added, intellectual property "incentivizes" research and
For Microsoft, more licensing deals means it potentially
profits in two ways from smartphones: Android licenses, and sales of Windows
Phone. As part of its deal with Microsoft, Samsung indicated it would
collaborate on development and marketing for Redmond's smartphone platform.
That could be a harbinger of things to come, with companies more amenable to
embracing Windows Phone as an alternative platform if Android ends up costing
them extra headaches and money.
But whether Windows Phone enjoys greater adoption as a
result of Microsoft's Android maneuvers remains to be seen. Microsoft is
currently pushing its latest smartphone update, Windows Phone "Mango," in a bid
to strengthen its competitive stance against not only Google Android, but also
the Apple iPhone.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter