Android keeps paying off for Microsoft, and a patent licensing pact between the Redmond, Wash., software giant and Lenovo is another step in that direction.
The deal, which the companies announced Aug. 23, includes a cross-licensing agreement covering Motorola devices as well as those carrying the Lenovo brand. In addition, the electronics maker has agreed to ship Android mobile devices preloaded with Microsoft Office, OneDrive and Skype. Lenovo acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014 in a transaction valued at $2.91 billion.
“Microsoft’s thrilled that our productivity apps will be preinstalled on Lenovo’s premium devices. The marriage of Microsoft’s apps and Lenovo’s Android-based devices will enable customers around the world to be more productive, more connected and achieve even more,” Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s OEM Division, said in a statement.
Christian Eigen, head of corporate alliances at Lenovo, said in prepared remarks that the deal offers “new opportunities for our customers to take advantage of some of Microsoft’s most popular apps” and offer additional value to the company’s customers worldwide. In the coming years, Lenovo expects to ship millions of Android devices bundled with Microsoft’s apps, the companies said.
Microsoft’s massive intellectual property (IP) portfolio includes several patents related to Android, with 310 patents according to a 2014 disclosure by the Chinese government. In the nearly 13 years since Microsoft kicked off its IP licensing program, the company has signed more than 1,200 such agreements.
This week’s licensing deal recalls a similar one Microsoft signed with Samsung in 2011. At the time and several months before formally coming under Google’s ownership, Motorola Mobility was locked in a bitter court battle with Microsoft over patent infringement claims at the time. Last year, Microsoft and Samsung announced that the South Korean device maker would ship smartphones and tablets with Office, OneDrive and Skype.
It’s been a busy year for Microsoft’s IP unit. In May, coinciding with the sale of 1,500 technology patents to Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker agreed to preinstall Microsoft Office and Skype on its Android smartphones and tablets. In July, Microsoft inked yet another Android-related patent deal with Luna Mobile, a Tampa, Fla.-based maker of affordable smartphones.
Android is a big money maker for Microsoft. According to industry watchers, Microsoft has raked in billions of dollars, courtesy of the company’s controversial patent licensing program.
Meanwhile, Lenovo-owned Motorola has been earning kudos for being the fastest smartphone vendor in terms of providing Android OS updates to U.S. users. A recent study from Apteligent, a mobile app intelligence firm, found that Motorola had Android 6.0 updates out of the gate faster than its rivals, followed by LG and HTC.
Seeking to escape the enormous shadow cast by market-leading smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy handsets, Motorola has gone modular with its latest flagship phone, the Moto Z, which is made so users can swap out components. Buyers can personalize their phones with separately purchased “Moto Mods,” including a speaker from JBL or Motorola’s own Moto Insta-Share Projector.