Dell and Microsoft have entered into a patent licensing agreement, giving each company access to parts of the other's patent portfolio.
The companies "have agreed to license each company’s applicable intellectual property related to Android and Chrome OS devices," announced Microsoft in a March 26 statement. Dell's Android tablet offerings include the Venue 7 and 8. Dell's Chromebook 11 is the sole Chrome OS product from the PC maker.
Of note is the mention of the Xbox, the hardware at the center of Microsoft's video game business unit. "Under the terms of the agreement, they agreed on royalties for Dell's products running the Android or Chrome platforms and on consideration to Dell for a license for Xbox gaming consoles," informed Microsoft.
Dell, via its Alienware subsidiary, already has some experience in the field as one of Valve's partners for the upcoming launch of Linux-based Steam Machines from select PC makers. Currently, Alienware is targeting a late 2014 release date for its version of the Steam Machine. The deal may open the door to the manufacture of Xbox-branded hardware or grant Dell access to technology used in parts of the Xbox ecosystem like the Kinect motion sensor.
The deal, and several others that came before it, helps keep tech companies out of court, according to Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutiérrez. He said in a statement that his company has "been partnering with technology manufacturers and vendors for many years to craft licensing deals, instead of litigation strategies."
Microsoft and Barnes & Noble settled a patent lawsuit in 2012, leading the software giant to invest $300 million in an ebook joint venture with the bookseller called Nook Media. A year earlier, Microsoft filed suit alleging that Barnes & Noble's Nook tablet, which is based on rival Google's Android operating system, infringed on its patents.
Neil Hand, vice president of End User Computing Products at Dell, said the "announcement builds on our history of collaborating to bring new technologies to market." The nearly 30-year business relationship between the companies "continues to help Dell deliver choice and flexibility to customers looking for the best technology to meet their needs," he added.
Over the years, Microsoft has signed on several other Android device makers, including smartphone maker HTC in 2010. The following year, it inked Android patent deals with Acer, Viewsonic, Onkyo and Velocity Micro, a maker of low-cost Android tablets. Japanese camera maker Nikon came onboard in 2013, as did Foxconn, the world's biggest contract manufacturer.
Nabbing Foxconn was a particularly big feather in Microsoft's cap, noted Gutierrez at the time. "By licensing both brand-name companies and their contract manufacturers, we have successfully increased the overall effectiveness and global reach of the program."