Apple, Microsoft Licensing Fees Could Alter Android Landscape

Apple is reportedly negotiating with Android manufacturers for licensing fees, according to a new report. Microsoft is already engaged in a licensing campaign.

Apple is apparently negotiating with some Android manufacturers to settle long-running patent disputes, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

Apple wants to discuss terms with Motorola Mobility and Samsung, two of the largest producers of Android devices, according to the report, which cites unnamed sources familiar with the matter. However, that doesn€™t necessarily mean Apple will engage in similar talks with other Android manufacturers.

If Apple did enter into an agreement with those rivals, it would mark a drastic reversal in strategy. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously pledged to wage €œthermonuclear war€ against Android, which he viewed as a stolen product. In a meeting with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Jobs reportedly refused to accept any sort of Android-related payout. €œI don€™t want your money,€ he said, according to Walter Isaacson€™s bestselling biography. €œIf you offer me $5 billion, I won€™t want it. I€™ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that€™s all I want.€

Even after Jobs died in October 2011 following a long battle with cancer, Apple continued to hurl lawsuits at various Android manufacturers, which responded with their own counterclaims of patent infringement. Now, according to the Journal, Apple could instead ask those manufacturers for a patent-licensing fee.

If Apple does shift course in this way, it could end up mirroring Microsoft, which has spent the past several quarters corralling Android manufacturers into licensing agreements. Microsoft argues that Android violates its patents, and has made no secret of its willingness to sue companies that produce Android devices€”and who aren€™t willing to pay a set fee per unit. Samsung, HTC and Acer are just a few of the firms that have agreed to take a Microsoft license rather than fight it out in court.

Would manufacturers continue to churn out Android devices if they had to pay significant fees to both Apple and Microsoft for each unit sold? Because Motorola Mobility was acquired by Google, it basically has no choice but to pursue an Android-centric path. In their battle against Android, however, Apple and Microsoft can hope that their legal maneuverings give other manufacturers pause.

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter